KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 — Some middle-class Malays have surprisingly rejected the seven per cent Bumiputera discounts for luxury homes, calling the policy “embarrassing” and “unconstitutional” despite Malay politicians saying it was still necessary.
Their stand contradicted Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s opinion that removing the discount for select properties as proposed by DAP’s Tony Pua would anger the Bumiputeras, as well as Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin’s argument that it was still needed to widen Bumiputera ownership in strategic areas.
“It is quite embarrassing to us Malays because it is as if we cannot afford that kind of property,” real-estate business owner Haslinah Yaacob told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.
“It is against the Constitution,” said the 49-year-old, who added that housing discounts are not listed under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees the special position of the Malays.
Retired engineer Ismail Ibrahim agreed with Haslinah that the Bumiputera discount was unconstitutional and should be scrapped.
“The discounts are illegal and unconstitutional. There is no such thing as special rights of Malays in our Constitution,” said Ismail, 60, pointing out that Malays’ “special position” as defined in Article 153 of the Federal Constitution did not translate to “special rights”.
The engineer added that the “special position” of the Malays refers to religious and family matters, and not houses.
Pua, the DAP national publicity secretary, recently urged the Selangor government to abolish Bumiputera discounts for million-ringgit luxury homes as well as commercial property in the state to improve competitiveness and restore investor confidence. However, he proposed keeping the discounts for houses up to RM500,000 and commercial properties up to RM2 million.
On another point, businessman Abdul Aziz Ahmad said the Bumiputera discount was not an Islamic practice as the affirmative action did not benefit the poor in general.
“The policy should cover everyone regardless of race. That is more Islamic,” said the 50-year-old businessman.
Abdul Aziz also criticised the New Economic Policy (NEP) for its failure to achieve the stated 30 per cent Bumiputera equity target since its inception in 1971.
“For 40 years, we failed to achieve even 20 per cent of Bumiputera equity,” said Abdul Aziz.
“It (the NEP) is a policy to cover for Umno, to show that they are fighting for Malay interests. But it is for their own benefit, for certain segments in society,” added Abdul Aziz.
Najib has been criticised for backtracking on the New Economic Model (NEM), which was meant to remove the rent-seeking and patronage practices left over from the NEP, after he called the policy a “trial balloon” when faced with a sour reaction from some Malay groups.
“If I can afford RM2 million, I should be embarrassed to ask for a seven per cent discount,” said management consultant Mohd Radzi Mohd Taib, 50.
“The discount should not be based on racial status but economic basis,” added Mohd Radzi.
Like Abdul Aziz, the management consultant criticised the NEP for reducing the competitiveness of the Malays.
“We (Malays) are weakened by NEP because we don’t compete on the same level,” said Mohd Radzi, pointing out that Malay students would not study as hard as their non-Malay counterparts as they could still enter government universities even with lower grades.
Communications practitioner Arfan Amaluddin echoed Mohd Radzi’s points, and said that the Bumiputera discount policy merited a relook in order to make the grouping more competitive.
“We should revisit the decision, should it be detrimental in the long run. I believe it is time to do so,” said Arfan, 32.
“This is so that we, the sons of the soil, will in fact become more competitive, especially in order to attain that lofty goal of becoming a ‘developed’ nation,” he added.
Although Najib admitted yesterday that the Bumiputera discount practice might “not last forever”, he said that it would not be removed now, citing possible dissatisfaction among the Malays.
The Najib administration had also decided to maintain the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity target in the 10th Malaysia Plan, leading critics to question if the “merit-based” NEM would be finalised months after its debut in March this year.