So this is another thing I have been trying to formulate/articulate – I remember Melayu Baru as a trope in Malaysian political discourse was launched at the UMNO General Assembly 1991 by Dr. Mahathir Mohamed. For him and for many, it symbolized the rise of the Malays above their ‘dilemma’ through an unashamed application of constitutionally enshrined ethnic privileges in all sectors of Malaysian and economic social life. Without questioning its ethical justification or endorsing its success as social engineering, I want to note that the deployment of this term, has come to symbolize, for many Malaysians, the excesses of an elite cabal of Malays (and their many non-malay kuncu-kuncu of course).
Anyway it is really interesting how the one aspect of Malaysia’s TPPA deal that has been touted by the government as evidence of the safeguarding of our national integrity is the enshrineing of Bumi privilege within TPPA, protecting the Malays in the trade and competition scenarios that might arise in the future. It is ironic that the command economy inefficiencies of our ethnic system is seen, by global capitalism, as being worthy of a place on the new free-trade playing field.
Even more ironic though is the fact that this move might entrench outdated social engineering levers, that the newest of Malay thinkers like the late Suflan Shamsuddin fear are hampering and hindering the continued rise of the Malay race. So my formulation of the current Malay Dilemma goes like this – Does the TPPA, potentially, auger against what Suflan calls “the creation of an enlightened resilient Malay society which makes its own choice to be free from special privileges to compete and survive”?