By G. Manimaran
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 - Worries about an impending “overly liberal” New Economic Model has prompted nearly 80 Malay groups to form the Malay Consultative Council (MPM) to push the government to maintain affirmative action for the country’s dominant race.
A Malay leader revealed that the MPM wants the Umno-led Barisan Nasional government to maintain a “guided” New Economic Policy (NEP) that protects the Malays and Bumiputras, saying the community was worried about moves to abolish subsidies and other forms of aid.
“We don’t want an economic model that is overly free or overly liberal... we want a model that can lead the interests of the Malays,” the leader told The Malaysian Insider on condition of anonymity after attending the MPM launch in the Sultan Sulaiman Club yesterday.
The Malaysian Insider understands that the MPM is disappointed with the government for not having comprehensive discussions with Malay groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) about the New Economic Model (NEM), to be launched next month in line with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1 Malaysia concept and global economic trends.
There were also several Malay NGO leaders who felt the current problems are due to a weak government that was meeting the demands of other races in the economic sector. Najib had freed 27 economic sub-sectors from mandatory Bumiputra participation last year and also reduced quotas for Bumiputra equity in initial public share offers.
The MPM felt that Malay political leaders themselves are sidelining Malay interests, the leader said without identifying these politicians.
It is understood that while MPM was formed to defend and protect Malay rights and Islam, it will initially focus on the economy.
Among the prime movers in MPM are Perkasa, ex-Umno lawmakers council Mubarak, Peninsula Malay Students Confederation (GPMS), Malay Professional Thinkers Association and Cuepacs.
The MPM will organise a round-table conference for its members on Mar 7 to discuss the future economic direction of the Malays and an introduction to the NEM which Najib had promised would lead to higher income based on innovation and creativity.
“Yesterday’s meeting was focused on protecting Malay interest in the economy, we don’t want the Malays to continue being sidelined by open economic policies.
“To ensure that the NEM has affirmative approaches to help the Malays and Bumiputras because we hear this element is missing in the new model ... this was the emphasis by the NGOs supporting the MPM,” he added.
The leader said a majority of NGOs in the MPM had disclosed that Malays and Bumiputras feel their position was threatened as the country’s economy is still being controlled by minority groups.
Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali yesterday said MPM’s role is to protect and be the frontline against quarters that continuously try to undermine the rights, privileges and economy of the Malays, position of Islam and Malay Rulers in the country.
He said the MPM will play its role as a pressure group to the government to ensure it does not stray from the core principles in the Federal Constitution, particularly Article 153 that protects the Malays.
Earlier this month when opening the 1 Malaysia Economic Conference, the prime minister had asked local industries to accept changes that are occurring without expecting much protection from the government.
Najib, who is also Finance Minister, is battling to reduce deficits and steer the economy out of the recession.
He announced last week that the country’s economy grew 4.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2009 with overall growth shrinking 1.7 per cent against earlier gloomier estimates of 3 per cent.
However, the Najib administration is also battling to keep the economy afloat as foreign direct investments continue to fall.
International Trade and Industry deputy minister Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir promised last week that the NEM would make appropriate concessions for the Bumiputras in line with previous policies, including the NEP.
He admitted to have received visits from NGOs representing various industries and sectors who had expressed worry that the NEM would be too open and reduce opportunities for Bumiputera entrepreneurs and businessmen.
Mukhriz said that the government would give the appropriate consideration for all quarters in its policies.