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Distributive Justice - Response to Tome Cruise (2)

Dear YB,
Thanks for your prompt and comprehensive response to my comments. I am touched. I better put my reply in point forms for readability.

1. Umar Al-Khattab opposed the taking over the fortune left behind by the retreating Roman army.


Syria and Palestine were under the Romans for over six centuries, from the time since before Jesus Christ. The Romans were the landlords and much of the local pouplation were slaves or peasants, working the lands. When the Muslims arrived, they could have taken over the lands legally by the standards of that time. However, Umar Al Khattab saw that such a move, although allowed by law, would lead to economic injustice. The locals being poor, would continue to be poor and disenfranchised because the economic system and social circumstances were such. Umar, understood that Islamic social justice needed a social reform to be undertaken. While allowing some lands to be bought by the Muslims, he ensured that the locals too would be allowed to develop economically by selling them the land at affordable prices or through a taxation progamme which would ensure income to the state while not burdening the land owners.

If he was to just allow market forces to decide, based on willing buyer, willing seller and the highest price, the whole of Syria would be bought by the Muslims who just entered Syria and the locals, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, would remain as slaves and peasants.

This is where I said our understanding of ‘justice’ is important. What we want to see is distributive justice. The market is not perfect and has therefore to be assisted by what I mentioned as ‘affirmative action’. We can see for ourselves that it is not a level playing field and some people are better placed, have a better start, have better facilities and the such than others. This occurs on an inter and intra race basis as well as between different sectors of the economy. Affirmative action requires the government to target disenfranchised or marginalised sectors of the society. The sectors are identified by their economic sectors, social groups and even race.

Social stability can only occur when every group feels it is not marginalised or left out by the economic system due to factors out of their control.

2. Affirmative policy is an accepted norm in modern day societies.

Affirmative action is an accepted norm as the world realises the imperfections of the economic system as mentioned above. However, it should be accepted as a national agenda with the agreement of all, based on open and frank discussions. Not decided by big brother alone. It should not be done the way the BN has been doing it all this while where only certain Malays enjoy all the benefits in the name of the Malays as a whole. We should observe not only the difference in income between the races but also within the race. This is what I meant when I mentioned inter and intra race.

I agree that all who are poor should receive help and assistance and actually this was the second objective of the DEB which was of course completely ignored. ‘Membasmi kemiskinan tanpa mengira kaum’ was what was stated. The first was ‘Menyusun semula masyarakat dan menghapuskan pengenalan kaum dengan fungsi ekonomi’ or Restructuring of society and the abolishment of identification of race with economic function. This was due to the historical developments where the Malays were basically farmers and fishermen, the Indians estate workers and the Chinese involved in the Tin industry and trading. The situation created by the British where there was the identification of race with economic functions had to be corrected as the unequal exposure and economic growth of the different sectors in the end led to an undesirable economic inequality between the races.

Historically PAS supported the DEB originally as the basis was to achieve economic distributive justice. However, the manner it was implemented was all wrong. UMNO lost focus and saw it as a means to line their pockets, not to solve the problems of the Malaysian economy.

I agree that assistance should not be just given away just like that but the people must be made to work for it. ‘Giving away money’ happened under BN because of their political objective of mantaining themselves in power. The cronyism which they practiced and their culture of money politics destroyed the more noble aspects of the DEB policy.

On the issue of discounts on houses, let me put it this way. Say there are 100,000 people who are poor in Kedah. 60,000 are Malays, 25,000 are Chinese and 15,000 are Indians. There are only 2,000 houses being built. What is being attempted is to ensure that not all the houses will go to one particular race or that one race does not get it at all. If there were 100,000 houses it is a different matter. However since the numbers are such, then we have to attempt to ensure no one feels disenfranchised or left out. So that is why the race guideline is also being used. Here it should also be further strengthened by ensuring the rich Malays should not be given the discount as what was done under the BN. At times they even allowed some of their cronies to take up 4 or 5 houses and the poor Malay is then pushed a side. As such, I believe it is more a problem of implementation rather than a problem in terms of the definition of social and economic justice.

On the issue of national car policy, Proton started at about the same time and level as Hyundai, Sang Yong and Kia. It should have been successful and it would have ensured the transfer of technology effectively as in the case of the other car companies. However again what ever potential it had was destroyed by UMNO/BN. The management was taken over by friends of Dr. M. As for the suppliers, many were cronies who did not perform and were mere cronies who then sub-contracted. Real and serious Malay entrepreneurs were pushed aside because their political loyalties were in doubt. The vendors who did not perform were protected by the powers that be and the downward spiral was inevitable. Unfortunately everyone wants to look upon Proton as their ‘cash cow’ instead of seeing the basic national objective in developing an industry which should target the neighbouring countries as their potential market.

I agree that meritocracy should be the first criteria in all appointments as we cannot appoint incompetent people to develop an industry being financed by the nations funds. I also agree that political considerations should not be the determining factor for the appointments. What is important is to appoint people who can perform. This should be the first consideration at all times.

3. Ensuring distributive justice (race-based) and ensuring the minimal negative impact on economic development and transparency in implementation.

Race whether we like it or not is a reality which we have to live with. What we have to ensure is that no one race is left behind. We should not believe that one race is superior than another and as such the discrepencies that exist can be attributed to the system, circumstances and factors out of the control of the ordinary citizen. The government has to attempt to level-out these differemces.

As I said, everything has a cost, including social justice and stability. I think we can learn a lot from what has happened around the world to ensure that such calamities do not happen in Malaysia. So, we should try to find a formula which will ensure every one and every race gets a share of the cake. However, again I stress the need to ensure just distribution on an intra-race basis as well.

4. Policies aiming at protecting the right of a race are not necessarily 'racist'. Chinese wish to have their Chinese language schools so as Malay wish to have a fairer share of the economic cake.

I think maybe you are not aware of the poicies carried out in our neighbouring countries. In Thailand and Indonesia the policy of National language and national identity is enforced with such enthusiasm that the talk of mother tongue education is seen as 'unpatriotic', an act of ‘betrayal’ and even ‘treason’. Mother tongue education is then done unofficially and not through formal institutions. Fortunately in Malaysia this is not the case eventhough there are those who seek similar policies. Similarly, as there are differing views with respect to these rights, there are also different views with respect to how the economic cake in a country should be shared. I believe that the economic pie should be shared such that no individual is deprived, irrespective of his race or religion and at the same time, all races should have a fair share such that no one race feels left out. I do not believe that the two objectives are mutually exclusive or contradictory.

I agree that it should be based on skills and effort and this is where the policy should concentrate on giving the fishing pole and not the fish. I have no problems then with the proposal to develop the skills. Unfortunately the only skill that BN appreciates is that of political ‘ampuism’ such that even Malays with the right skills are pushed aside.

I also agree that real talent should not be deprived of the oppurtunity to perform. I believe that currently there are many non-Malays who are playing a pivotal role in developing the economy and they should be assisted.

5. Helping Indian communities from the estates is not racist.

I think Tom has a wrong understanding of the word ‘racist’. Racist means believing one’s race is superior, prejudiced against other races and hating other races. Please check in the dictionary. The policy of helping the poor estate Indians is not racist in any way because they are poor, deserving our help and by helping them we can achieve an equalising effect on the distribution of wealth amongst the races. I believe that we can pursue these two objectives simultaneously, intentionally and with full realisation of the importance of our actions.

6. These lands are originally Malay reserve land. Hence conversion of these lands from 100% Malays ownership to 50% Malay ownership is 'compromised' number.

Yes the policy as I understand it and explained by the MB in the last issue of Harakah talked about the Malay reserve land. He even mentioned that this policy is less stringent than those states where there is an enactment allowing only people of the state to purchase land in the state. Anyway, as he said, it is a policy which can be restudied after a few months to see if there are any negative effects so why not let him try. What is important is that he is doing it not based on a misguided view of the non-Malays being ‘pendatang’ etc.

On the issue of Malay reserve land, well there are pros and cons. As simple village people the Malays would have sold their lands in the fifties in order to go for Hajj and such. There would be nothing left for the future generations. Now I believe policies such as these can be restudied in the light of new circumstances.

I think point 7 has been answered above.

8. Squeezing the rich is not a problem.

Yes, I agree that the rich are an asset. However I disagree that they are rich because people want them to be rich. I think that is rather simplistic. As I said, the economic system is not without faults. It is not a level playing field. Some people are more fortunate and are at the right place at the right time etc. etc. However, I agree that they become rich with the support of the general public rightly or wrongly and as such they too should acknowledge the role of the public and the need for them to contribute to the public’s economic growth. Some get the support through monopoly and the government’s concessions which include highways and IPPs among others. Not all these concessionaries are Malays mind you. I think that YTL is a case in point. They get millions by selling to TNB electricity at a higher rate than what TNB can produce by themselves!

I also agree that we should not squeeze the rich too much and if I am not mistaken, the discussion was on the discounts given which the rich, Malay or Chinese, should not qualify for.

WalLahu 'Alam

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