KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 — G25 member and former senior civil servant Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim has pointed out that Malays would not feel threatened by other ethnic communities if government institutions are strong.
Speaking at a forum organised by Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia titled “Malaysia Baru — 61 Years After Merdeka, Do Ethnicity and Religion Matter?” Sheriff pointed out that Malays make up the majority of the country’s population and therefore, their voice will always be heard.
“Look at the ‘white’ countries in the Commonwealth such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom where recent years have seen minorities, including Muslims, emerging to take up official positions in government — including the mayor of London.
“I don’t think ‘the whites’ are worried about them coming up because they are confident that the institutions are strong enough to ensure that a Muslim mayor of London will not do something to adversely affect ‘the whites’, while granting advantage to the Pakistani community at the expense of others.
“When institutions are strong, ethnicity and religion are not a matter of concern,” said Sheriff.
He admitted that there are a few vocal members of the Malay community who would question the appointment of non-Malays as finance minister, attorney general and chief justice.
However, the retired Finance Ministry secretary-general also pointed out that there are constitutional safeguards in place to maintain the status quo.
He reiterated that the fact Malays make up the majority of the country’s population meant they would have the final say in rejecting any proposals that are disadvantageous to them.
“No political party would want to antagonise the Malays with unpopular policies and risk losing Malay support in the next election. Lim Guan Eng himself said, as chief minister of Penang, why would I want to anger the Malays and lose the next election?” he said.
However, Sheriff reminded the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government that to properly restore the nation’s economic health, it may have to make decisions that are unpopular with Malays, which would then serve as ammunition for Malay extremists or the government’s political rivals.
“The prime minister just announced that BR1M will be phased out. As Malays are the main recipients of BR1M cash handouts, we can expect accusations that the new government is deliberately targeting them.
“Similarly, in order to strengthen competitiveness in the economy and reduce wastage and leakages in public expenditure, there needs to be restructuring from race-based to needs-based policies, while GLCs in the commercial sector are reviewed because they have been accused of competing unfairly with genuine entrepreneurs.
“Now, these bold measures like the move to revamp the NEP (New Economic Policy) will be met with strong opposition, like what happened to the NEM (New Economic Model),” Sheriff predicted.