The ultimate Malaysian debate: Malaysia or Malaysaja?

By Nurul Izzah Anwar

AUG 31 — Perkasa claims to defend Malay rights in a multi racial Malaysia. And these Malay rights are inalienable, non-negotiable and permanent. Those that disagree with their interpretation of these Malays rights are deemed treacherous and should leave Malaysia.

In the spirit of Ramadhan and Merdeka, I would like to invite Perkasa to a Constructive Engagement for a new beginning for Malaysia with me.

I would like to ask Perkasa, several key questions to better understand, and together seek real solutions for the crisis it claims the Malays are facing.

I believe that Perkasa is the current vocal, and not necessarily the majority voice of the Malays. And by all indication, Perkasa is the alter-ego of Umno.

If Perkasa can be engaged constructively and a resolution found, then we would have answered the acid-test of Malay concerns once and for all?

To have an honest Constructive Engagement or dialogue, I suggest that we must decide on four fundamental principles.

First, we must base our dialogue on an agreed standard reference document. Should it be the Malaysian Constitution? The Umno constitution? Or the Perkasa constitution?

If we are unable to decide then our dialogue becomes futile and a monologue at best.

However, looking at how Perkasa continues to refer to Article 153 (even brandishing a copy of the constitution in media events) we can infer that the Constitution indeed is the preferred standard reference document for this dialogue.

Second, once we decide on the standard reference document, then we have to address the issue of constitutional interpretation?

For example, nowhere in the written constitution is it mentioned specifically of the existence of the term ‘Malay rights’. Instead the only term spelled out is the ‘Special Position’ of the Malays in Article 153.

The Article contains specifically, of the powers vested in the Yang di Pertuan Agong to ensure that places in the civil service and institutions of higher learning along with quotas in the allocation of scholarships, and permits or licences required for business and trade are reserved for the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

Another case in point is interpreting to reconcile the ‘Special Position’ of the Malays provisions with other non-Malay citizens with Article 8(1): “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”; and Article 8(2): Except as expressly authorised by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.

It would be ideal to have a mandated entity such as a Constitutional Court or at least a Constitutional Council appointed by the King to act as the final interpreter of any constitutional issues.

The role of the King is central to the issue of constitutional interpretation, as Article 153 of the Constitution states that: “It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.”

However, it should be noted that the existing judiciary already acts as an interpreter of constitutional matters in Malaysia.

For the purpose of this dialogue, both sides can present their interpretation of the constitution to be rebutted subsequently.

Third, the dialogue be made public and presented to the people for feedback and validation.

Again, it would have been ideal if a Referendum Process is legalised whereby such fundamental issue can be decided and resolved by the citizens and made binding to all.

As an alternative, the public feedback for comments and recommendation mechanism through letters or the internet would have to do. It is not binding but it would be a measure of public participation, which can only enrich our democratic process.

Fourth, the dialogue format is suggested as follows, I shall submit my point of view in the form of this open article to Perkasa for a rebuttal, and also later for Perkasa to provide their version for my subsequent rebuttal.

The outcome shall be presented to the public for comments and recommendations.

Then as a test of sincerity I invite Perkasa to a Publicly Televised Debate.

Dialogue Safeguards

I propose both Perkasa and I will indemnify all political parties from our views.

Maybe Umno might disagree with Perkasa’s views or PR mine. And all political parties can participate at the comments and recommendations stage if it wishes.

To avoid being seditious, I propose that our views are qualified as an attempt to seek clarification and not to challenge or repeal the Constitution.

I believe that Perkasa and I are true Malaysians and Patriots, but that only our views may differ, hopefully for now.

However, if Perkasa refuses to engage on this matter at all, then it is sufficient for the people and history to judge this dialogue as my sincere attempt to reach out to them for the sake of our country.

My first question is; who is a Malay?

Article 160 of the Malaysian Constitution, defines Malay as being one who “professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay customs and is the child of at least one parent who was born within the Federation of Malaysia before independence of Malaya on the 31st of August 1957.”

Therefore, constitutionally, a Malay is one who speaks the language, practices the religion of Islam, and performs the rights and rituals of its culture.

My question to Perkasa is, spiritually and intellectually, does a Malay accepts injustices, power abuse, corruption, racism, anti-democratic laws, state institutional degradation to ensure that the Malays are a Supreme Race in Malaysia, with first class citizenship privileges not to be shared with other non-Malay citizens?

My second question is; what are Malay rights?

Malay rights is an ideological and philosophical and not a legal and constitutional construct.

Article 153 only mentions the ‘Special Position’ of the Malays, and not the ‘Special Rights’ of the Malays.

The term Malay rights is alluding to the unwritten ‘Social Contract’ that defines a ‘Malay Agenda’ which has been extended to include the term ‘Malay rights’.

The Social Contract outlines certain privileges that the Malay community enjoys in exchange for granting citizenship rights to non-Malays during independence by the founding fathers as contained in Articles 14-18, Chapter 1 Part III- Citizenship, of the constitution.

These privileges collectively, are referred to as the ‘Malay Agenda’ which includes provisions on the status of Malay rulers to be preserved, with the head of state, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to be elected from His Majesties. Islam would be the national religion, and the Malay language would be the national language. The ‘Malay Agenda’ also includes provisions of economic privileges accorded by Article 153.

It is also pertinent to note, that according to the Reid Commission that drafted the constitution, Article 153 was intended as temporary preferences to seek racial parity, subject to be reviewed after 15 years by Parliament as to its continued need.

It then should have been reviewed in 1972 but was preceded by the 1969 race riots. Efforts were made, that no sunset clause be included for Article 153, and that under the Sedition Act (1971), it is illegal to be discussed even by Parliament.

These economic privileges in the aftermath of the 1969 race riots, was then institutionalised into the New Economic Policy (NEP) which was then extended as the New Development Policy (NDP) from 1990-2000 and currently we are in the final year of the 3rd Outline Perspective Plan (OPP3 2000-2010) which also includes the National Vision Policy.

However, we welcome the announced change from a race-based to a need-based affirmative action policy as outlined in NEM, but if past practices are any indication, the initial affirmative action stance along with an affiliation-based discrimination will still remain. We will continue to find that the actual wealth distribution will still be skewed to the cronies of the ruling elite.

This has become a ‘Malay Right and Entitlement’ and the cornerstone of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’, which continues to even overshadow the New Economic Model (NEM) initiated by the Najib government today.

My question to Perkasa is, has the concept of ‘Malay Rights’ now become a permanent convention that supersedes even the written constitution in policy and practice that has to be accepted by all non-Malay citizens?

My third question is; what is the Perceived ‘Malay Anger’ about?

Can it be that the ‘Malay Anger’ built on ‘Malay Insecurities’, may appear to be racist in form, but in essence is a ‘Malay Siege Mentality’ defensive reaction, to the failure in achieving the NEP goals (reborn as the NDP in 1990, followed by the OPP3 and refined as the current NEM) after 40 years of implementation?

Can it also be that the false sense of losing Malay Entitlement and Privileges has crystallised into a political ideology of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’, that further divides the nation?

Can it be that the Malays feel that they are getting poorer, marginalised and disillusioned in their own country in spite of the NEP and billions spent?

Can it really be that the ‘Malay Anger’ is conveniently blamed on the industry of the non-Malays and reformed minded Malays?

It seems that the ‘Malay Anger’ is centred on economic entitlements rather than on cultural, royalty, language, legal, educational, religious or political power deficiencies, where the Malay remains dominant and rightfully unchallenged, as seen from the official affirmative action policies, institutions and civil service population composition.

Could it be that the real question nagging the Malay psyche is, what then is the value and utility of having the Malay traditional dances, Royal institutions, Malay language, Malay medium schools, Federal and State Religious bodies, Syariah court system, civil service and the Federal and State governments remain dominantly Malay, when the Malay feels poor?

It is this imbalance of achievements that creates a dysfunctional Malay identity of being only Political Masters in name and not in wealth that keeps ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ alive.

The ‘Malay Anger’ is purposely focused on the dismal achievements of NEP goals and targets that is used as the justification to continue it ‘permanently’ at all cost and beyond reason.

Instead the angry Malays should focus on the diminishing ‘enabling’ factors to equitable and sustainable economic growth (as increasing the economic pie to achieve NEP targets is the main premise to wealth redistribution policies in NEP) caused by cronyism, corruption, wastages, leakages, wrong resource allocations (big projects phenomenon), racism, anti-democratic laws and state institutional degradation and abuse that in reality subverts and undermine achieving the well intended NEP goals.

My questions to Perkasa are;

Where does the real blame for the ‘Malay Anger’ lie? Is it with the NEP results or is it with its selective implementation, where only the ruling elite few and their cronies benefit to the detriment of the Malay majority?

How can Perkasa explain just one example, which is the well documented NEP leakage of RM52 billion in equities originally allocated to the Malays that have been sold off?

What impact has cronyism, corruption, wastages, leakages, wrong resource allocations (big projects phenomenon), racism, anti-democratic laws and state institutional degradation and abuse have in shaping the ‘Malay Anger’?

Who has really betrayed the ‘Malay Agenda and Malay Rights’?

My fourth and last question is; what is the end-game scenario that the unresolved ‘Malay Anger’ will lead to?

In my final analysis, only through free and fair elections that the people can decide if ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ or ‘Ketuanan Rakyat’ shall define Malaysia.

Once the next general election outcome is determined, and if ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ is victorious, then some may choose to vote with their feet (emigrate with massive brain drain and a diminishing tax base), and some will choose to vote with their wallet (domestic capital flight compounded with decreasing FDI that further stunts our economic growth), which in turn will indicate the makings of a potential failed state with irreversible consequences.

What is left will be a shell of a former Malaysia that could have been a great example of a democratic and pluralistic nation to the world.

We are truly at a monumental cross-road for the soul of our nation.

As a reminder of a possible way forward out of this ‘Malay Dilemma’, a Malaysian statesman, the late Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman once argued that “the question (of the ‘Special Position’ of the Malays) be left to the Malays themselves because as more and more Malays became educated and gained self-confidence, they themselves would do away with this ‘special position’.” Ismail believed the special position was “a slur on the ability of the Malays.”

After 53 years, are we Malays not educated and self-confident yet?

After 53 years, are we Malays still ignorant to the real causes of our problems yet?

After 53 years, are we not Malay enough to act as the protector and provider of justice, equality, dignity, fraternity, liberty and peace for all who choose to co-exist as partners and fellow citizens yet?

In conclusion, we the Malays must stand up and do what is right for Malaysia and our children as they face the challenges of a competitive borderless world.

Would we be so blind and selfish to risk their future for our sins of the past and our deliberately induced insecurities of the present day?

Then my last question to Perkasa is; Will you allow our country to remain in name as Malaysia or be renamed as Malaysaja?

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 12:30 pm

    Putting it very simply, we have this gravy train that has been going on for 53 years. It has been gathering momentum all the while, never stopping and many want to be on it.

    Those who benefited from this gravy train and those who can benefit from this train, want to be on it and no reason on earth will be accepted by them to stop it or to slow it down.

    All rational thinking and debate are futile as they fall on deaf ears. The passangers want to be on this train and they hope that it will never stop. And if they can prevent others from getting on to share the gravy, so much the better.

    The problem is that the engine driver, his engineers and conductors cannot do anything as the mob already on the train will kick them all off and take over.

    So they all just chug along.

  2. #2 by sotong on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 12:44 pm

    It’s all about power and money for a selected few at all cost.

  3. #3 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 1:23 pm

    For the life of me I really don’t understand the point of the debate. NEP was NEVER expected and will never achieve what its suppose to achieve. The Malay ruling elites have ALWAYS failed the common Malays economically from time immemorial. (That it also apply to Indians too should give Malays a better idea where they stand historically). That UMNO/BN should fail and betrayed the NEP WAS expected.

    Ibrahim Ali could have the founders of this nation in front of him saying there is no special rights and he will still INSIST there is. Belligerance knows no bound. When your MO is ‘the end justify the means’, there is no point in debating any further. He is a political mutation, and there is no point trying to reverse the genetics of a mutant even if its political.

  4. #4 by cseng on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 1:23 pm

    Very nice balance piece from Nurul, these are question of 1 Malaysia. But, no worry, instead of answering them, he maybe spin thru Utusan (for few days) something like “Traitor!, traitor! They question not only the Malay right, the NEP, our right to get angry, they even question the constitution and the word of Malay itself, Traitor!”. They do not need logic reasoning nor fact to talk; they need only an excuse and Utusan to spin the talk.

    To stay in power, it justified for whatever cost it takes, even that means doom. Sad Merdeka!, we still colonized from within, what to happy about?

  5. #5 by frankyapp on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 2:26 pm

    I have said before that Ibrahim Ali has become a political animal,a kind of animal being inflicted with dieases such as self interest,greed and power by manipulating sensitive issues such as race,religion and raja raja. However the core issue is,is it for himself or for some hidden hands ? I think most people have concluded that the later indeed is or are the real enimies of the state.The three Rs diease has no bearing Sabah and Sarawak,on the contrary,it awakened the east malaysians to defending all the more its rights and freedom as partners in Malaysia . In the next poll east malaysians will vote for whoever can give or guarantee them autonomy. Hence people like Ibrahim Ali,his gangs or his underground master(s) are not welcome in here. Sabahan is always 1Sabahan,similarly Sarawakian is always 1Sarawakian.Come election we will prove it .

  6. #6 by ekompute on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 2:54 pm

    I dare to bet my last dollar that the dim-wit is not man enough to face Nurul Izzah.

  7. #7 by Loh on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 4:02 pm

    ///Article 160 of the Malaysian Constitution, defines Malay as being one who “professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay customs and is the child of at least one parent who was born within the Federation of Malaysia before independence of Malaya on the 31st of August 1957.”///–Nurul Izzah Anwar

    The above definition should include a clause (b) is the issue of such a person.

    Thus, project M Muslims who came through Sabah will have to show their birth certificates to prove that their parents or grandparents were Malays before they can be called Malay.

    Toyol is known to be a second generation Indonesian. Clearly his father was not born in Malaysia before Independent day 1957. Toyol cannot be Malay unless his grandfather was Malay and that his father was a Malayan or Malaysian born in Indonesia and registered with the Malaysian Embassy or Consulate in Indonesia. Perhaps the Selangor government should look into the matter. If that was true that Toyal was not Malay, that Toyol had violated the Selangor constitution for having been appointed as Mentri Besar by Mamakthir.

    It is unfair to Malays and non-Malays if persons who ought not to be classified as Malay enjoy the affirmative actions and NEP. It means a dilution of aid resources available to true Malays and also a burden to national resources. It is particularly hurtful to non-Malays because those wrongly classified as Malays make them shoulder directly the cost of houses. They also deprive non-Malays places of higher learning.

    Najib is duty bound to check on the status of those who claim to be Malays. Mamakthir suggested some time ago that there should not be an entry regarding race in government documents. He wanted to allow persons who do not have Indian, Chinese or Christian sounding name to be automatically classed as Malays. That would allow Muslims to be treated as Malays, particularly those who share Mamakthir’s background.

    Article 160 is clear that to be Malay, one of his/her parents or ancestors must have been Malay. Curiously, as Mahathir was born before 1957 and he could not be classified as Malay based on the constitution because his father was not Malay, how is it correct for Mahathir’s son to call themselves Malays?

  8. #8 by asia on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 4:11 pm

    I think they want to tell the SABAH and SARAWAK native that they are the first class, the Sabah and Sarawak are second class or maybe third class.

    Does anyone bother to discuss these issue with them?

  9. #9 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 5:03 pm

    Nurul, Malaysians must NEVER capitulate to the racist bellows of racist Perkasa.

    Ibrahim has adopted the evil outlook and philosophy of Nazism. Such men must not be left unchallenged. Now Ibrahim says he doesn’t want a debate. Now the obvious reason is Ibrahim reads the script penned by some godfather, possibly not unlike Tun M. Ibrahim has very little brains but a very big mouth as all the pictures on the internet show. I guess his oral cavity is hugely larger than his cranial cavity. I even suspect that his cranial cavity is very hollow, meaning that his brains is rather small. [This is how ‘bird-brained’ got all its connotations]. But insults aside, there is little doubt amonst thinking people that Ibrahim is an unthinking, racially hegemonic zealot.

  10. #10 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 5:12 pm

    Nurul, don’t waste your time. As expected the Perkasa chief has just sidestepped your challenge to a public debate on Malay rights saying the community’s special position and privileges should not be questioned. What he meant to be even debated and discussed. He also said, “She is a young kid that does not know or appreciate the history and meaning of the fight towards independence so inexperienced and yet she is already auctioning the pride of her own race”. He also said that his fight was with your father, not you, and you were small fry who better spend more time on focusing on your father’s sodomy trail…(Reference – TheMalaysianInsider Report by Neville Sypkerman and Shazwan Mustafa Kamal on August 31, 2010).

    Just like the other day he ticked off CIMB’s head Nasir (for saying that NEP has been bastardised to enrich a few) as talking nonsense, not qualified to make economic assessment, and”even he is banker he is new” and that his CIMB did not become successful because of him.

    Just how do you reason with someone whose first response is to denigrate the messenger’s standing without an iota of rationale to address much less rebut the merits of his message? How do you trade reason with Anti-Reason?

  11. #11 by ekompute on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 5:28 pm

    QUOTE: To stay in power, it justified for whatever cost it takes, even that means doom. Sad Merdeka!, we still colonized from within, what to happy about? — cseng

    They know that if UMNO loses the next general elections, they will be behind bars. That is why they have to make sure that UMNO wins at all cost.

  12. #12 by asia on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 7:07 pm

    I have a question for everyone.

    If tomorrow the person in charge of government decided that new class Samiputra have a specific position.

    But inside The Federal Constitution of Malaysia have nothing about Samiputra?

    Is it legal or illegal?

  13. #13 by tunglang on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 7:17 pm

    My 2 cents:
    Are we prepared to debate free from interferences, threats and violence by the polis, the Rempit hooligans, the AG, the dunggu DPPs, the emotional Perkosa hotheads, the ISA, the cow heads gangs, the chicken gangs, the religious building vandalists, the firebrand NGO protestors, macam, macam lagi di Malaysia!

    Otherwise, biar begitulah saja, sampai PRU 13.
    Sudah berkali-kali cakap isu-isu tapi tak terima akal lembu!
    Lebih senang dan ‘selamat’ bercakap dengan Sang Kancil!

  14. #14 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 1 September 2010 - 7:39 am

    I LOL when Ibrahim Ali trying to give excuses says Perkasa fight is with Anwar and not Nurul Izzah. Its freaking laughable and betrays the neanderthal mind that he has.

    If anything Perkasa long term fight is with Nurul Izzah, the younger generation of Pakatan Rakyat’s leader – they are the future, they are the voters that Perkasa has to win over.

    Saying Perkasa fight is with Anwar is a preoccupation with the short-term, the quickie. Anwar is a means to the ends for PR, not the other way around. It betrays the fact they can’t imagine beyond narrow and short-sighted range.

    You know how you defeat Perkasa and Ibrahim Ali? By forcing them to have to behave like adults and intelligently. They can’t do it and will fail. That is why Nurul wants to debate them. Because she is more adult and intelligent than Ibrahim Ali.

  15. #15 by wanderer on Wednesday, 1 September 2010 - 8:10 am

    Hey Ibrahim Ali, kita selupa la……we are second Malaysians, ‘PENDATANG’ so what made you so special?
    You asked asked for a tongkat because of your incompetency , kita pun kasi, mau tongkat ALI, kita pun kasi but, don’t climb over our heads because of our kindness!….patience has a limit!

  16. #16 by dagen on Wednesday, 1 September 2010 - 10:02 am

    Hey ibrahim bin perkasa why are you always so angry? Relaklah.

  17. #17 by artemisios on Thursday, 2 September 2010 - 1:30 pm

    what’s most saddening is, they’re shouting malay rights & all that… but in truth they’re only interested in their own benefits.

    It’s not really Malaysaja,

    it’s actually Umnosaja

    Their mouths say they wana help the poor malays, but at the back lane they’re stashing BILLIONS of the poor malays’ $$$$$. & whenever they get close to being exposed for their theft, they try to cook up racial issues to distract the malays.

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