Tensions were put on the cutting table last Saturday at the Prince Philip Theatre at the University of Melbourne.
About 200 Malaysian students gathered, eager to voice and hear the opinions of their peers on a policy that is seen as discriminatory and exclusive to certain groups in Malaysia.
The inaugural Debate organised by the Malaysian Students Council of Australia (MASCA) was a unbounded platform to allow the different faces of Malaysia to express their feelings about the New Economic Policy (NEP).
The motion put forth was whether Malaysia has failed to progress since the inception of the policy.
(Photo by Aqmal Anis)
Standing affirmative to the motion were Monash second year law students Sri Komathy and Julie Ngai,and Shamir Hameed who is a creative advertising student in RMIT. Taking the opposite front were Kelab UMNO Association Melbourne (KUAM) president Haerris Riani, Commerce student Nor Leanna Hannifah and Masters in International Relations student Ronald Li.
The affirmative argued that the inception of the NEP has made Malaysia less competitive within the global stage. That it had restricted Malaysia’s full potential in the economy, education, and has failed to unite the different ethnicities in Malaysia. They argued that the policy had allegedly increased corruption in the country, where funds are inappropriately allocated to only a elitist group in Malaysia failing in its idea of balancing out inequalities in the economic pie.
The rigidity of thirty percent Bumiputera policy ‘closes’ the Malaysian market to foreign investment, and has spurred disunity because of its discriminatory tone in its policy. This has led many to leave Malaysia and find opportunities overseas.
(Photo by Aqmal Anis)
The negative argued that the NEP had had pushed Malaysia through progression that was not able to be imagined during the sixties. They argued that the policy had met to balance out the equity of increasing Bumiputera share of the economic pie from 2.4% to 20% over the last twenty years and has seen great economic growth within the country, evident by the establishment of local industries and infrastructure in the country. They acknowledge that the NEP was not a perfect policy, however had done enough to be a foundation for Malaysia to progress to do better in the future.
The floor was open for the audiences between each speaker to voice their opinion on each teams argument. Where many put forth their personal accounts being affected by the policy. Many of the students spoke out how the policy had made them feel discriminated in their country, and supported that the policy had stunted Malaysia’s from its full potential. Some, argued that it was needed in the sixties to allow for the Malays to catch up economically, however acknowledged that the policy had not entirely met its goals and needed revisions in the recent decade.
Throughout the debate, there was a evident contrast between each team’s angle of debate. Where the affirmative stood that the policy had ‘completely failed’ to address the needs of the citizens of Malaysia, whilst the negative argued that the policy had ‘progressed, however has not met its goals entirely.’ Both sides agreed that the NEP was an expired ideology, and needs reforms to address Malaysia’s current economic situation.
The audience participated in a poll before the debate and after, and the results had a surprising change at the end of the debate. Where the first poll a majority of 44.1 percent of the attendees agreed that the policy had failed with 29.9% disagreeing with the statement and 26% undecided.
The numbers flipped in the end where people agreed that the policy had not faltered completely with 40.2% standing at the NEP’s failure, but a jump to 43.9% supporting that the NEP brought progress, with 15% still undecided.
The debate was a good forum to allow the young generation of Malaysians to spur different angles of opinion on a sensitive issue. Having been its inaugural staging, it was a success to bring a certain sense of closure of what the larger community feel about the policy and united Malaysian’s to be open and critical of the issues that needed to be address in the progression of future successes for the country.