Tan Koon Swan’s ideas hurt millions in 1980s, need no repetition

I usually don’t comment on retired politicians but Tan Koon Swan’s frontpage interview with Sinchew Daily today (17th September 2016) needs attention as those were the exact ideas of the 1980s which hurt millions of small depositors in the deposit-taking cooperatives scheme.

Former MCA president Tan Koon Swan, a new Tan Sri, told Sinchew Daily that the Chinese control the Malaysian economy hence there is no need to feel unhappy with the situation in Malaysia.

Tan was a MCA president for a very short stint between 1985 and his imprisonment in Singapore in 1986. Tan was a major political figure from 1983 when Lee Sam Choon stepped down abruptly from MCA presidency, which caused a major split between Tan and Neo Yee Pan’s camp.

Tan’s ideas of Chinese self-empowerment through pooling money in MCA-led stocks as well as deposit-taking cooperatives to “fight” “Malay-led” (essentially state-led) investment giants were prevalent in the first half of the 1980s until the economy crashed in 1985.

Millions of ethnic Chinese placed their faith in him and his associates. Many ended up losing their life savings when the deposit-taking cooperatives collapsed when the economy entered a recession and the market crashed.

We are now in the 21st century. With the failure of these racial ideas in 1980s, we should now be able to see that cooperate ownership by rich individuals of all ethnic groups have nothing to do with the lives of ordinary Malays, ordinary Chinese or ordinary Indians.

We must be able to articulate an economic model that looks into the wellbeing of ordinary Malaysians and not equate the wealth of certain individuals as the wealth of a “race”.

But such is the challenge that faces Malaysia: old racial ideas being recycled as if they are gospel truth without the historical context of the past.

(Media statement by DAP National Political Education Director and MP for Kluang Liew Chin Tong in Kuala Lumpur on 17th September 2016.)

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