By Debra Chong
PETALING JAYA, March 23 — Saying that only political change can bring economic reforms to Malaysia, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (picture) last night blamed the Najib Administration for crippling the national economy by putting politics ahead of policy reforms.
In his sharpest barb yet directed at Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the Umno veteran urged the prime minister to end race-based affirmative programmes in the New Economic Policy (NEP) drawn up 40 years ago which he said was a cover for “corruption, crony capitalism and money politics”.“To make that leap we need a government capable of promoting radical reform. That is not going to happen without political change,” the Kelantan prince and former finance minister said when launching the second edition of “No Cowardly Past” by lawyer James Puthucheary here last night. Puthucheary, who was once a politician and economist, died 10 years ago.
The Gua Musang MP mocked Najib for delaying announcing his proposed New Economic Model (NEM) and suggested that the new policy may only be a rehash of the “old” NEP, drawing chuckles from the audience.
The chuckles stopped when the 73-year-old reminded his audience how deeply race-based policies had scored themselves in the minds of the powerful few, noting that the NEP was dragged back to life by Umno Youth six years ago because “it was and remains the most low-cost way to portray oneself as a Malay champion.”
“The NEP is over. I ask the government to have the courage to face up to this,” he added.
He called on the Najib administration to restore independence in public institutions and to overhaul the education system and repeal “repressive laws” such as the Printing Presses Act, the Universities and Colleges Act, the Internal Security Act and the Official Secrets Act.
“Confidence in the rule of law is a basic condition of economic growth,” said the politician popularly known as Ku Li.
Tengku Razaleigh added that “radical reform” and not “piecemeal measures” was needed to move the economy forward but strongly suggested that it may not be possible under the present leadership.
Asked to clarify his meaning, Ku Li explained that Najib needs to move fast and translate his proposed policies into action to plug the swift drain of talent out of the country.
Najib is now in Hong Kong to promote Malaysia to fund managers and investors at the Credit Suisse’s 13th Asian Investment Conference which starts today.
The Prime Minister is due to receive a report on the NEM which he announced when taking office last April. The report and policies will be fully announced in June when Najib tables the 10th Malaysia Plan as the government wants public feedback to shape the NEM.
Malay right-wing groups have said the NEM must be guided by the NEP which was officially abandoned in 1990 and subsumed into the National Development Policy which ran from 1991 to 2000.
Razaleigh, who was unsuccessful in challenging Najib for the Umno presidency last year, remains a harsh critic of the ruling Barisan Nasional government policies particularly its refusal to give 5 per cent oil royalty to his home state Kelantan.
However, he has pledged loyalty to Umno despite calls to quit his Gua Musang seat and his division leadership. The opposition Pakatan Rakyat has privately urged him to join them but he has declined the offer.