PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Nazir Razak (pic) is convinced that there is still hope for Malaysia with the country needing to embark on three key reforms.
The former chairman of CIMB Bank said the reforms would require new institutional rearrangements to effectively referee political competition, a clear separation of business, government and politics, and electoral reforms.
“I am sure many would agree that if our best minds and leaders deliberate our inter-communal social contract, education system and affirmative action, in safe spaces instead of the toxic theatre that is party politics, they would arrive at some new formulas and trade-offs that are more suited for today’s Malaysia and Malaysians, ” he said in his speech at a Chevening alumni leadership talk recently.
Nazir, a Chevening alumnus, noted that he was pursuing the idea that there is a need for a system reset while also toying with the notion of whether another National Consultative Council should be set up.
“We can also learn from the recent trend of deliberative platforms across the Western democracies, such as the national assembly in Ireland which successfully dealt with the controversial issue of abortion.”
Among some of the systems of dysfunction in the country, Nazir pointed out, were of 1MDB, the scandal involving Bank Bumiputra and its subsidiary Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) in the 1980s, the preferential allocation of shares to bumiputra in the name of the New Economic Policy (NEP) during IPO listing of companies on the stock exchange as well as the NEP model of developing bumiputra billionaires where the government would support politician-handpicked individuals to become businessmen.
“I am not criticising the system that was put in place following the May 13,1969, breakdown in civil order.
“I think there was the need for those major systemic changes – greater government involvement in the economy, affirmative action for the bumiputra, amendments to sedition laws, Rukun Negara and the formation of a grand coalition of parties (Barisan Nasional) to govern the country, ” he said.
However, with the NEP, 50 years have passed and the system remains in place despite having a timeline of 20 years to eradicate poverty and redress the intercommunal economic balance seen as preconditions for the emergence of a Malaysian nation, he added.
“The system is no longer fit for purpose and Malaysia is in dire need of another system reset.”
He also said that when Pakatan Harapan came into power in 2018, many, including him, were hopeful that it would follow through with the reform agenda but “did very little of it”, pointing out that they were unable to implement the recognition for UEC (unified examination for independent Chinese secondary schools) or even sign the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“For me, the Pakatan experience reaffirmed that our system is like a badly written play. You can change the cast and have the world’s best actors but the play will still be bad.
“The system sets incentives for politicians and political parties to behave in a certain way and sadly, our system encourages them to be too divisive, too vulnerable to monetary incentives and too deferential to power.”
Despite the dysfunctions in the country, Nazir stressed that he is still quite optimistic as he sensed that more and more people want systemic reforms due to the widespread despondency with today’s politics.
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