By Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is right to "uplift the bumiputras to a respected level in society". In fact, a great deal has already been achieved by the government over the years especially since 1970.
Najib also emphasized this important government commitment at the opening of the Bumiputras Education Tour (JPB) 2017 at the Bera district council field yesterday.
His noble goal is "to help students from low-income families and rural areas to enter higher education institutions".
But YAB, the public, and especially non-bumis, will ask the vital question: Will the JPB program include bright but poor and urban non-bumi students as well, or will it be exclusively for the bumis?
If the JPB program is to apply exclusively to bumi students, then we are planting the seeds for disunity and a failing state!
I agree with the prime minister's claim that Malaysia is not a failed state, as of now! But we can become a failing and even failed state if our public policies continue to be race- and religion-based and not income- and need-based.
So, it is essential that our prime minister and government fully clarify this sensitive issue to all Malaysians, particularly at this time of the coming general election.
The PM is laudable when he said the government "strives to ensure that no student is deprived of the opportunity to further his or her studies due to poverty".
But, we all know of many really poor and bright Malaysian youths and especially non-Malays and non-bumis who are deeply frustrated because they have been excluded from educational opportunities. Instead, many and more non-bumis have not been included under the government's policies to help the poor, regardless of race!
After all that was the original intention of the New Economic Policy, as I remember it from 1970. We have become unnecessarily exclusive for the Malays and bumis and have sadly marginalized many poor but bright non-Malays over the years.
I must stress that this exclusive policy will further undermine our strained national unity and national well-being, peace and prosperity. From now and onto TN50, we must become more inclusive and less exclusive, or we will become more and more a failing state, and then a failed state!
Therefore, Mr Prime Minister, please lead us once again along the path of national unity, and inclusiveness, like our beloved founding fathers did.
Please pursue income- and need-based policies rather than race- and religion-based concerns and issues that will slowly but surely ruin our beloved country. We have to be more Inclusive to ensure greater progress, peace and sustainability in the future!
That YAB Datuk Seri Najib should be your grand legacy, like that of our illustrious prime minister and your late dear father Tun Abdul Razak.
It is a great challenge but can be achieved under the national cry: Malaysia Boleh!
(Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam is the Chairman of ASLI Center for Public Policy Studies.)