SHORTLY after becoming the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Sri Najib Tun Razak propounded the concept of 1Malaysia—an ambitious dream of equal treatment to all Malaysians irrespective of racial background.
It's hard to say if the 1Malaysia notion is merely a political ploy to win back the confidence of voters who voted for the opposition in the last general elections; or whether the Prime Minister truly means to give equal treatment to all Malaysians, but I would say it's probably a bit of both. If indeed the Prime Minister means what he says, then I'd say he's dreaming the impossible dream. For I can't see Malaysia transforming into the so-called 1Malaysia—at least not anytime soon.
In many ways, the non-bumiputeras of Malaysia have always been the less-privileged citizens. In terms of government projects, it is always the bumiputeras who will secure them. And in many cases bumiputeras are partners in major companies strictly because they can secure government contracts. In terms of important posts in government establishments, e.g. the police force, banking industry, universities, administrative bodies, these are overwhelmingly given to the bumiputeras.
No wonder when the Prime Minister first announced the 1Malaysia idea to the nation, many non-bumis were somewhat skeptical. But after a while some were convinced of the idea, and allowed themselves to indulge in dreaming the impossible dream too; hence a dream within a dream.
A year or two had since elapsed since the first time I heard of the 1Malaysia announcement, but I still see it, for the most part, as an ambitious—if not impossible—dream. Many, many government policies do not accord well with the 1Malaysia concept; and I don't foresee them to change—ever.
In the housing industry, for example, 30% of new houses are still reserved for the bumiputeras at discounted prices. If the policy is a matter of helping poor bumiputeras to own houses, I can accept it. In fact, I would welcome that policy. But it would be more reflective of the 1Malaysia concept if the 30% discounted prices are given to poor people from all races, as opposed to only the bumiputeras. Even more baffling is that the 30%-for-bumiputera rule extends even to high-class properties of, say, condominiums worth above RM500,000 each. I think it's pretty safe to assume that if an individual can afford a RM500,000 house, he is not exactly poor.
On the other hand, if policies are really changed in line with the concept of 1Malaysia, would it work? I'd say it's doubtful at best. Policies can be changed in a heartbeat, but the people who are supposed to put those policies into operation can't be changed overnight. If, for example, there is now a new policy that says government contracts should be awarded to companies based on merits, and not on race, would the people actually doing the selection process obey that policy? What do you think?
If, for example, there is a policy that says scholarships are to be awarded based on merits, and not on race, would the people actually sitting in the selection committee obey that policy? What do you think?
No—the 1Malaysia concept is just too far-fetched to ever become a reality. But it is a romantic idea, and many people would dream that it would become a reality one of these days.