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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37, No 21. August 28, 1974



'Special rights' tends to widen rather than diminish inequalities in wealth and opportunity, generates unfulfillable expectations, and creates a variety of other unintended counter-productive social effects including the basic ingredients for corruption — irregular transactions made to trade political power for private economic benefits. The Western aid-development paradigm results in the case of 'special rights' in the usual deepening dependence and corresponding paternalism.

From the underdevelopment perspective, the irony 'special rights' is that this colonial means of control moulded to the alliance's communal-compromise survival formulae as an instrument of controlled social progress, has within it all the contradictions most likely to bring down the whole alliance edifice.

Fundamental to the 'special rights' strategy is the assumption that political and economic roles and functional relationships within 'democratic' capitalism can be separated by constitutional means (section 153 of the Malaysian Constitution). That by making 'special rights' more immutable than the constitution itself the Malay elite hopes to buy survival time for itself by the suppression of any political or even academic attempt to analyse ( or even refer to) the problem. The two contradictory sets of expectations generated among the Malay and non-Malay communities as to the permanent and inalienable/temporary and transitional character of 'special rights' indicate that time is for the Malay elite, an expensive and scarce commodity. Furthermore, 'special rights' constitutes an ideological leverage for the Malay elite which both inhibits and binds the strategic options open to them.

Collective socialised development programmes amenable to Malay cultural values are precluded as ideologically dangerous (quite correctly) to the elite.

'Special rights' then, like all pay-off schemes for political loyalty, is thrust into a unilinear strategy. Continued loyalty requires a progressive upping of promises (and expectations) and hence a progressive widening of the expectation — achievement gap. The need for this unilinear strategy for survival is generated by the communal tension the formula controls and simultaneously generates.

The inherent instability of the strategy is apparent as the history of greater Malaysia and of May 13, 1969 demonstrates. May 13 testifies also the force of the above contradictions in preventing any frank account of the crisis, or firm action to meet it from the Malay elite other than 'more of the same thing' from the National Operations Council (NOC) and the New Economic Policy.