Former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew says Malaysia's race-based policies place the country at a disadvantage.

In excerpts from his newly-launched book titled ‘One Man's View of the World' at the Istana in Singapore today, Lee said: "It is voluntarily shrinking the talent pool needed to build the kind of society that makes use of talent from all races.

"They are prepared to lose that talent in order to maintain the dominance of one-race.

"In recent times, the Malaysian government has been somewhat willing to acknowledge this loss of talent to vibrant cities elsewhere and is making an attempt to lure some overseas Malaysians back.

"But the reality is that these efforts may be too little, too late," said Lee, who was formerly minister mentor,in the book's Southeast Asia chapter 'Malaysia - A Different Path'.

Also in the book, Lee said in a globalised world, competitive advantage of a people will increasingly hinge on skills, the brain power and the drive they possess.

"Malaysia is losing ground. It is giving other countries a head start in the external competition.

"In the aftermath of the 2008 general election, there was a strong sense among some quarters in Malaysia that the country was on the verge of real change," he said.

He noted that an opposition that campaigned officially on, among other things, promises to do away with some of the country's race-based policies surprised even its own supporters with the result it got.

"In terms of votes, it was the opposition's best result since 1969. In terms of seats, it was the best result ever. The government was denied a two-thirds majority," he said.

Political realities
A year after the election, Lee noted in his book that when Najib Razak took over as prime minister, he launched a campaign called 1Malaysia to strengthen racial harmony and national unity.

NONEHe said Najib (right) brought the 1Malaysia campaign to win back some of the Chinese and Indian votes that his party lost in the 2008 election.

"But has the ground moved with him? Has there been thunderous applause from the Malays at 1Malaysia? It may have been that he (Najib) started with ambitious plans. But it appears that political realities may have conscribed his subsequent actions," Lee said in the book.

Lee said it was impossible for Najib to win the votes from the Chinese and Indians without losing votes from his party's core supporters - the Malays.

He noted that the 1Malaysia slogan had not lived up to the initial excitement it created.

In his book, Lee said: "When I met with the Chinese press shortly after its launch, they said they had initially reported it as one multiracial Malaysia but were later corrected to report as simply 1Malaysia."

"In other words, the people share one Malaysia, but the communities remain distinct, as Malays, Chinese and Indians. It still remains to be seen if the campaign can level the playing field for non-bumiputeras in any significant way."

Very long shot
In the book, Lee also said that if those counting on 1Malaysia to usher in a new era for race relations were being unrealistic while those counting on the opposition to do the same someday very much less so.

To begin with, Lee said the opposition coalition coming to power in the near future was a very long shot indeed.

But even if it were to happen, he said the chances of it getting rid of Malay special treatment were next to nothing.

NONETo understand this, Lee said one had to examine closely the Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

This, he said was an opportunistic and ad hoc group not held together by even a vaguely coherent set of ideas but by a common desire to unseat the government.

"As long as it does not actually hold the reins of the federal government and therefore does not have to implement the said multiracial policies, some semblance of unity can be maintained.

When it comes to the crunch, Lee said, however, Pakatan would not be able to do away with Malay supremacy.

Lee said: "The moment the bluff is called and it is handed the full power to push ahead, it will either be torn apart within or be paralysed by indecision."

Published by Straits Times Press, the book publishing unit of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Ltd, the 400-page volume conveys Lee's views on the future of the major powers and regions of the world.

- Bernama