WHY interview Datuk Ibrahim Ali? Because his nationalistic non-governmental organisation (NGO) Pribumi Perkasa Negara (Perkasa) isn’t a force to be dismissed lightly.
The independent Member of Parliament (MP) for Pasir Mas started Perkasa in reaction to political rhetoric about equality and meritocracy following the 2008 general election. Today, in Perkasa’s ranks defending “threats” to the special position and privileges of Malay Malaysians are between 60,000 to 70,000 people whose applications are waiting to be processed. This is what Ibrahim tells The Nut Graph in a 9 March 2010 interview at his Kuala Lumpur office.
“I’m personally surprised at the support, and I didn’t set any membership targets. It is beyond my expectations,” he says. Asked who Perkasa’s members are, he says the majority are ordinary Umno members. There are also “a few who are MPs and a few supreme council members” whose names he can’t remember. Quite a number are retired top military personnel. Sizeable, too, are civil servants from the technical and clerical group. A handful are PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat members, he says.
Perkasa is established in all states and will next set up branches at the district level. Selangor Perkasa was launched in January 2010 by former prime minister and former Umno president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Ibrahim is Perkasa’s pro-tem president, but the group, registered as an NGO under the Registrar of Societies, is to hold its first annual general meeting and elections on 27 March. This is to be officiated by no less than the sultan of Selangor.
In this first of a two-part interview, Ibrahim defends Perkasa’s goals and the need for affirmative action for Malay Malaysians.
TNG: What is the best way for Perkasa to achieve its goals?
Our objective is to safeguard the Federal Constitution, in particular Article 153. This is already in place; even Parliament cannot amend it. And according to the Sedition Act, you cannot discuss it.
But now there are organisations, political leaders and parties who directly or indirectly erode this basic principle of Article 153. So we need to defend Malay [Malaysian] and native rights and we are not racist, because what we are doing is within the [constitutional] framework. We are protectors of 153. We will voice our opinion about anyone whose statements we interpret as affecting 153.
Secondly, we are a watchdog to the government. We observe whether policies are within the framework of the constitution. If they go beyond that, we will pressure the government.
What are some government policies you feel have eroded bumiputra privileges?
Scholarships, university intakes.
Liberalising the 27 services sub-sectors?
I’ve yet to see whether there is any improvement in the economy because of this. We disagree with people who say ethnic-based policies and affirmative action keeps foreign direct investment (FDI) away from the country.
We also disagree that we should do away with the subsidy mentality. When you say “subsidy”, it reflects on the Malay [Malaysians]. The years of the New Economic Policy (NEP) from 1974 until 1990 saw the country at its best economic growth. All we want is for the NEP’s objective for the economic cake to be 30% for bumiputera. Now, non-bumiputera control almost 40% to 50%. But the bumiputera share is still stagnant. You can’t include government-linked companies (GLCs). They are not owned directly by Malay [Malaysians] but by the government.
In terms of individual stakes, you see only one Malay [Malaysian], Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, among the country’s 10 richest men. So when you say there should be no more subsidy mentality, what are you really saying, because how did Tan Sri Robert Kuok become a billionaire? He was given a monopoly on sugar. There is an element of subsidy there, when you give someone a monopoly. And when the government subsidises sugar, there is no price difference for Chinese or Indian [Malaysians] who buy it. Everybody benefits. It’s the same with petrol.
So I don’t like Tan Sri Francis Yeoh‘s comment that there should be “brutal competition” in the economy. Why is he successful and not other Chinese [Malaysians]? There are a lot of Chinese [Malaysians] who need help, I don’t deny that. But he was successful because he was given independent power producer (IPP) licences. And he can enter into agreements with Tenaga Nasional Bhd which are lopsided in his favour.
And then there’s Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan, who monopolises Astro and 012 numbers. These big corporate people are telling us to give up subsidies and have brutal competition, but they are the ones who monopolise important economic sectors and also indirectly receive a lot of subsidies.
Then this is not a race issue, nor is it about erosion of Malay [Malaysian] privileges; this is more about class, or the capitalist system, or bad implementation of the NEP, isn’t it?
Ya, betul lah, but if you look at the bigger picture, I’m saying that you cannot blame ethnic policies. In a free market economy, normally the money will go to certain big companies. When the government presents the budget in Parliament every year, you see billions of money meant for infrastructure development. Where does this money go to? It goes to these tycoons. So of course they can compete.
You cannot say that because NEP was mismanaged or there was corruption, we have to stop its objectives. It must continue, regardless the failures. The policy should continue until you see the distribution of wealth in accordance with the 30% target. Only then can you talk about a level playing field.
Now the government wants to turn our country from middle- to high-income. But what happens to the poor at the grassroots? If there are no more subsidies, how are they going to compete or to even survive? This is what Perkasa is talking about.
If free market capitalism is the order of the day, then there must always be affirmative action to follow through. So that’s what we are fighting for. Not that we want to deprive other races. Affirmative action will also benefit other races. The NEP clearly stated that poverty eradication is regardless of race.
Really? Perkasa is supportive of affirmative action for all races?
Yes, yes! You should listen to my speeches. We discuss that. But people just accuse us. If I really did say racist things, if I did say “Fight only for the Malays, only this for the Malays, only that for the Malays”, why is there no police report against me? We don’t stop other groups from demanding things unless they go beyond Article 152 (on the Malay language as the national language) and 153.
Our politics is communal-based: Umno for the Malays, MCA for the Chinese, Hindraf for the Indians. They are also demanding all kinds of things. Why do they call us racist when we demand our rights? This is what I’m getting sick of. Only if we start questioning their citizenship, or if we really press the government to go for a one-school system and abolish vernacular schools … ah, then you can say we are racist. But until now, I’ve never had one police report lodged against me.
What does Perkasa want the government to do about business monopolies?
We just voice our opinions. I met (National Economic Advisory Council chairperson) Tan Sri Amirsham A Aziz to present our memorandum. We fully understand globalisation, the need for the country to be competitive, the need to bring in foreign investment. But I told him, don’t blame ethnic-based policies. It is a misunderstood policy. The reason FDI doesn’t come to this country? Because the perception is that the country is full of corruption and bureaucracy.
Then if corruption is the bigger problem, why focus on race and privileges?
That’s why I say don’t blame ethnic policies. It is corruption and bureaucracy. Even foreign investors benefit from the NEP. For example, if German or Japanese investors come, with people like me, they can immediately start their business.
I told Amirsham, we accept the democratic capitalist system. Like it or not, there’ll be people like Francis Yeoh, Syed Mokhtar, and the country also needs people like them. They can continue with what they’re doing. But they must not belittle affirmative action policies by saying “no more subsidies” and other sweeping statements. We’re just asking the government to consider that the majority should drive the national agenda. That is the meaning of democracy.
Part 2 tomorrow: On prioritising Malay Malaysians
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“Even foreign investors benefit from the NEP. For example, if German or Japanese investors come, with people like me, they can immediately start their business”
Yes Ibrahim Ali, that is what you want. You want a rentier economy so that business[persons] have to team up with people like you in order to do business. No team up, no business.
Alan Ting says
Is this guy for real? How can giving subsidy and quotas for Malay [Malaysians] not racial? It’s a zero-sum game. If I give one scholarship to a Malay [Malaysian], then one other person will lose it. Unless he is saying that all poor Malaysians can get it if they meet the criteria.
Racists like him like to confuse the public because they know they cannot defend racism in a logical way, so they use things like Article 153 to defend it. If he thinks Perkasa is not racist, why doesn’t he invite MCA and MIC members to join? Why is the membership 100% Malay?
The only “threat” I can think of is their perceived inability to compete in today’s world because of decades of spoon-feeding and “special” privileges. Their perceived threat is more internal within their ethnic thinking rather external. No one is”threatening them. Learn to compete, for goodness sake!
danny leebob says
Listen to this guy. This is reality. This is polarisation. He is arguing that since MCA is for the Chinese race, and Hindraf is for the Indian race, then there should also be a force to fight for the Malay race. Unfortunately we have inherited this mentality from the British colonisation. In those days, the rulers encouraged each community to take care of their own. This mentality is going to stay for a long long time. Just go to one of the Chinese clan associations and listen to their struggle — they are still trying to take care of their own clan people. We want to call ourselves Malaysians, but we are insecure of this identity because we don’t know who is going to take care of us. Better to be safe with MCA, Hindraf or Perkasa.
By the way, I spot an Osama portrait on Ibrahim’s shelf.
All the non-bumiputera corporate giants he mentioned became what they are through their own hard work and with minimum support from the government. Is he suggesting that they donate all their riches to the Malay [Malaysians], after 53 years of privileges? Then Malaysia would end up just like Fiji, when the Indians controlled their economy and the country was doing well.
If Najib is really serious about his 1Malaysia, he should ban Perkasa!
sunny bunny says
Just wondering if Perkasa membership is open to non-Malays? He says it isn’t about race, so it should be open to all since he is fighting for rights of all Malaysians?
towering malay says
“Even foreign investors benefit from the NEP. For example, if German or Japanese investors come, with people like me, they can immediately start their business.”
This is what the NEP has produced — LAZY Ali Baba Malay [Malaysians] who just want to make a fast buck by propagating the “who you know” rather than “what you know”. As an investor, I say this guy can dream on … until the cows come home. The world has changed, yet this fellow still thinks he’s in the Malacca sultanate era, hahaha.
Perkasa? […] 60,000 – 70,000? Just do not trust this man!
Remember, once he barked in Parliament that he can easily mobilized 60,000 from Kampung Baru? And when the day of reckoning came, PR mobilised tens of thousands, but [him]? Less than 100 and had to call off the protest? This is the man you are interviewing, and people just do not want to read the contents of his answers!
It is the case of crying wolf once too often, you know all those racist remarks, stoking of racial tensions, burning of effigies of Chief Minister of Penang? It had come to a stage when people are just not interested in Perkasa anymore! Whatever credibility they had, it is now torn to shreds! No Malaysian with a sane mind will want to be bothered with this man! […]
He talks of championing of the Malay [Malaysian] community and Islam, blaming Chinese [Malaysians] for everything wrong with Malay [Malaysians]! Asking the government not to approve licenses to the ungrateful Chinese [Malaysians], all those remarks if muttered by any opposition [leader] will surely put them behind bars! This man had taken the laws to its limits, but due to the weaknesses of our PM, nothing can be done!
Champion of Malay [Malaysians] and Islam? Mere rhetoric, to win contracts for themselves at the expense of the qualified bumiputras, who had outdone the Umno-putras so well, when it comes to open tenders!
“By the way, I spot an Osama portrait on Ibrahim’s shelf.” by dannyleebob.
And is that Che Guevara beside Osama?
Bernard Chang says
Ooh… And that little Dutch house on his shelf next to the red-coloured frame. I’ve got one of those, too, but I haven’t figured out what’s inside. You get that when you travel business class on KLM. Not too shabby, Mr Datuk Ibrahim Ali!
“This is already in place; even Parliament cannot amend it.”
The guy has gone bonkers! Even Allah amended the Quranic verses. I’m surprised people pay any attention at all to [him]!
Charles Bennit says
[He] is a hypocrite of the highest order, was with BN first, then Semangat 46, then independent. Now? BN stooge. […]
ALAN TING n sunny bunny: you MUST study the constitution before giving your comments here ok. You said “invite MCA and MIC members to join perkasa”? So how about the Chinese [Malaysian] associations and Hindraf? Would they invite Malay [Malaysians]?
Towering Malay: I agree with you. Eliminate the ali baba…but who is always giving bribes and taking all the advantage?
m.k: […] I didn’t see him speaking about donating all the non-Malay [Malaysian] riches to Malay [Malaysians]. He means the govt should manage the contracts and not monopoly of the riches only.
Most non-Malay [Malaysians] say Malay [Malaysians] are so racist. I want to argue this statement. Indian and Chinese [Malaysians] have their own school. Do Malay [Malaysians] have their own schools? You want to eliminate Malay [Malaysian] rights – does Malaysia forbid you to raise your children? To marry? To collect property? Force you to use the Malay language? Force you to school your childred in govt schools? This is what Malay [Malaysians] call ‘diberi betis nak peha’ – which races monopoly the Malaysian economy? The Bar Council? Tell me. So, I don’t pretend that you are fair and square. You are the true racist!
Racism? Most Malaysian's are.. says
I think that most Malaysians don’t understand the concept of racism. Unfortunately some of the comments and reading into Ibrahim Ali’s interview glaringly points that out.
The moment you divide people into Malay, Indian and Chinese and attribute wealth, attributes or other characteristics to them, that is racism. The moment you generalise people into groups (i.e. all Malays are racist, is pot calling the kettle black).
Each human is born with rights. They are NOT given from one race to another. So you can’t say, you are not racist because people have been allowed to do this or that. They always had these rights. Malaysia belongs to the citizens of Malaysia and not one single communal group. That is why the constitution does NOT spell out the special privileges given to Malay [Malaysians] (NEP is not one of them, neither are any of the “new” laws created after the fact). So the act of looking at an “organisation” and seeing racial overtones in it is racial in it self. I doubt every Chinese or Indian [Malaysians] have secret meetings on how to “control” this or that (if they are, nobody has been inviting me).
Malaysia cannot handle communal politics and continue to be a viable country any longer. The old way of doling out the riches of the country no longer works because we no longer have money to afford to be able to do that any longer. We edge closer and closer every day to being a bankrupt state and risk social anarchy just for reasons of sheer pride.
Unless politicians from both sides can start being Malaysians first, and taking care of their country (rather than hiding special interests under the guise of communal, religious overtones), we are pretty much doomed. I fear however that most people in Perkasa would rather be a “King of a dung heap” than let somebody help them to a better way.
@PaYeD: Yes, Malay [Malaysians] do have their own schools. As I know it, boarding schools are Malay only and government funded, same goes with MARA colleges.
Non-Malay [Malaysians] are not asking alot, we just want the same playing field, help all those who are in need, not because of their race.
Merah Silu says
Well, Datuk Ibrahim Ali, you should continue with what you can do best. Nobody can ignore you. They can label you with all derogatory labels and I will always be at your side if you promote the right of Malay [Malaysians] in the country of our fathers and our great grand fathers since hundreds of years ago. These descendents of economic-seeking-immigrants are behaving just like their cousins everywhere in our neighbouring countries – ungrateful. They benefit from the wealth of countries and the generosity of our fathers. Now as usual they will talk about Malay [Malaysians] who are corrupt and all other bad things. But they are the ones who promote these practices. I hope you still have the energy and dedication of this noble pursuit.
BAH GAH: Mara exists according to the 153 Act…I think you know about this act. […]
Do you mean Article 153 of the Federal Constitution?
Columns and Comments Editor
@PaYeD: To quote you:
“I want to argue this statement. Indian and Chinese [Malaysians] have their own school. Do Malay [Malaysians] have their own schools? You want to eliminate Malay [Malaysian] rights – does Malaysia forbid you to raise your children? To marry? To collect property? Force you to use the Malay language? Force you to school your children in govt schools? This is what Malay [Malaysians] call ‘diberi betis nak peha’ – which race monopolises the Malaysian economy? The Bar Council? Tell me. So, I don’t pretend that you are fair and square. You are the true racist!”
My previous comment was a tic-for-tat answer to your question. Yes, Malay [Malaysians] do have their own schools, provided and funded by the government. To my knowledge, most Chinese vernacular schools are privately/partially funded by the Chinese community.
Again, all we are asking are level playing grounds, and help ALL those who are in need without regard to race. You have to admit that the NEP has failed and it is not the fault of the other races that it did, so don’t start the finger pointing. We are looking out for the country, not being racist.
Malaysia is going to play catch up with Vietnam soon if we do not improve. In the 70s Malaysia was considered as one of the four Asian Tigers, together with Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. Look where they are now.. and we are competing with Vietnam? Obviously, change is necessary.
It’s no longer the time when UM was considered among the best universities in the world, things have changed, UM has lost out to Chulalongkorn University (Thailand). Our country is almost crippled, and you are still playing the race card? No one is challenging Article 154, NEP is not part of 154 and you know it.