LETTER: Hard to roll back affirmative action
Racial favouritism can only be removed at great political cost to governing parties
Wherever one group can gain an advantage over another through discrimination, invariably this has led to an entrenchment of whatever policies they have used, such as affirmative action.
However, when that discrimination becomes counterproductive, even for the group in the pound seats, logic dictates a redress.
This happened in Malaysia in 2018 when the country tried to move to a more inclusive, needs-based affirmative action policy. Affirmative action had been implemented since 1971 and was strongly biased towards the ethnic Bumiputeras.
The reason for modifying it was that many from other groups — ethnic Chinese and Indians — were also disadvantaged. Plus, Malaysia has experienced an endless brain drain because of a racial glass ceiling.
However, politically, it was suicide to do this and it hasn’t happened yet, if it ever will.
The problem with racially instigated policies that favour the largest racial group, that favours your voters who make up that racial group, is that no political party can withdraw from them without suffering massively at the polls. And even when that policy is now counterproductive in every sense.
These gains, such as affirmative action, are now seen as rights. Take them away, or even dilute them, and those doing that will suffer politically. It’s the right thing to do, but you are now trying to take a perceived benefit away from the largest racial group who are your voters. No political party in power will commit suicide like that.
I hope there is a solution, but it will take a better mind than mine to find it.
Graham Pope, By email
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