Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Bangsa Malaysia

This was a something I posted in my e-group in August 2005 after Dato' Hishamuddin Tun Hussain brandished the kris for the first time at the UMNO Youth Assembly.

Sentiments for Bangsa Malaysia were high at the time in the aftermath of Lim Keng Yaik's keynote address (shown below) on the subject, the now called Krishamuddin felt he had to react.......


RE: Konfrantasi Again?

Hi All,

Having my early years in an era and educated in school where there was no concept of race, I am a great believer in the concept of Bangsa Malaysia. I grew up in awe of my Malay brothers who were swifter, stronger than me on the sports field and who trashed me academically in the classroom. Mind you, I was no pushover in either arena.

The nation faces greater challenges from without and Malaysians must unite rather than fight over the cake within; a cake that will surely shrink, relative to population increase, if we continue our mindless squabbles and acute paranoid mentality.

It alarms me to think that Hishamudin is an aspiring PM. Hopefully he does not think it is a birthright! I am apprehensive about him as Education Minister in charge of the very essence of nation building; the minds and capability of our young. As far as I know he was a nondescript Sports & Youth Minister who has been out-performed by the current lady. Wake up Preacher Man; certainly you are not scraping the bottom of the barrel. Do something in the next reshuffle.

Hishamudin appears to have suddenly realized this year that he has to start shouting communal rhetoric, brandishing the kris and championing the self-styled new National Agenda to remind UMNOnites he is still around. The proverbial Rip van Winkle has woken up to find he has lost relevance thanks to his own complacency and the emergence of a certain 29 year old. His methods are outdated and outmoded! To paraphrase the editor of The Star paper: “After 48 years of independence, most of us have grown tired of listening to worn-out communal and religious arguments from politicians. This is 2005; let’s get our act together to march on as Rakyat Malaysia.”

I have just read the text of Lim Keng Yaik’s now infamous “Social Contract” speech; pasted below. Bouquets to Keng Yaik; he has put the likes of Kah Ting and even the now, Anwar Ibrahim to shame for having the balls to articulate what he thought.

The spin doctors of certain individuals who need political capital should not be allowed to warp the minds of Malaysians and make this into a racial issue. Read this for yourself (I am not a Gerakan Party member and used to think that it was an irrelevant Party):


Keynote Address by Dato’ Seri Dr.Lim Keng Yaik President Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia At the Anak Malaysia Convention Held at Grand Ballroom, Grand Seasons Hotel, Kuala Lumpur On 13th August 2005


I am grateful for being invited to speak at this Anak Malaysia Convention jointly organised by Gerakan Youth, Sedar Institute and Friedrich Naumann Stiftung. I congratulate the organisers for a job well done. My warmest regards to all distinguished guests, speakers, participants and members of Parti Gerakan.

Ladies and gentlemen, this convention is timely because there is a serious need to rethink and review our nation-building project. It is only through a sincere and open review that we are able to identify and measure its success and failure, issues and challenges in order to help us achieve the desired national unity.

National unity should not be interpreted as a communitarian ideology. The discourse of national unity entrapped within the sole purpose of breeding homogeneity or conformity does not reflect a clear understanding of the social landscape of our modern society. In turn, I urge you to consider our proposition of looking at national unity using a pair of multicultural and multiracial lenses. Consequently, the dynamics that help to foster national unity are essentially diverse and different. But within this diversity, we can find a true synergy and strength which is far stronger than homogeneity.

Our nation-building project is supposed to create such positive outcome of national unity. However, a sense of national unity cannot be fostered through mere rhetoric or symbolism. Singing patriotic songs is good but singing them as an act of ritual is useless and meaningless. A sense of commitment to the nation and to the society must come intrinsically from within one’s heart and soul. This is what I called a sense of belonging and a sense of shared common identity to the country and to the society.

Gerakan’s Proposition of Bangsa Malaysia

Today, we would like to make you a proposition to consider coming together to foster a sense of belonging and a sense of shared common identity. At Gerakan, we call this proposition the creation of a truly ‘Bangsa Malaysia’. For this proposition to become a reality, we believe that our youths or our ‘Anak-anak Malaysia’ play a key role. Our younger generation should be taught to appreciate and respect the country’s rich cultural diversity and that it is essential for them to work together to face multifarious challenges of global scale. These diverse cultural values are our wealth and not a liability. The foundation of a society should be built from its diverse cultural values in order to shape its shared common destiny and identity.

Moreover, I truly believe that for Malaysia and its people to come together as a nation, we need to learn to understand, accept and celebrate our pluralistic nature. Pluralism, I believe is an essentialist element of a Bangsa Malaysia. We should not deny our shared cultural heritage. Over the years, each and every community in Malaysia has absorbed and assimilated elements from other communities into their language, art, music, lifestyle, food and others.

Is Bangsa Malaysia a reality or myth? The answer lies in the decision you make today. A nation-building project is never an easy one. Many countries took centuries to build a nation and a society. A great number of these societies were broken down and torn apart by unscrupulous conflicts masked by racial or religious overtones. Hence, different actors in the society must always be mindful of their action and interaction. We ought to practice self-discipline and to observe respect for our fellow countrymen of other races or faiths.

We need to build our society or a truly Malaysian race not by getting overly obsessed with a few racial or religious conflicts but to build on our centuries of inter-ethnic relations, understanding, goodwill and cooperation.

Moving forward, I urge you to conduct a critical assessment of our nation-building project. After almost 50 years of independence, do we have a general consensus on the concept of Bangsa Malaysia? Are we ready to embrace this concept? What are the characteristics of a Bangsa Malaysia? These are several pertinent questions to get today’s discussion on the ball.

The Making of a Truly Bangsa Malaysia

In my own assessment, there are several challenges and obstacles to our nation-building project and the creation of a Bangsa Malaysia. First, the project is faced with a ‘historical burden’ which must be removed. It stemmed from a politically motivated view of interpreting our historical past. For example, the dominant historical narration of our struggles for national independence and the formulation of the social contract between the main races often take a very narrow communal slant. An often repeated reminder to the Chinese and Indian community in this country is that the government did them a great favour by granting them citizenship to stay in this country. Hence, they should be grateful and beholden to the state.

The making of statehood cannot be based on a static interpretation of history. How can we ask these communities to sacrifice and devote their energy, resources and time to help in nation-building if they are often demoralised by such statement? An objective narration and documentation of history is a dynamic process.

Our society has gone through together horrid time of the cruelty of colonialism, imperialism and other challenges. We have survived and thrived as a society. Perhaps, it is timely that the future narration of history can reflect more on our join struggles and collaborations. We cannot achieve much as a society and as a nation – with a first-world ambition – if we continue to deprive our younger generation of a true reflection of history.

Second, I find that our sense of ethnicity or religiosity is stronger than our sense of nationhood and citizenship. I am worried that this way we are promoting and expanding our existing racial and religious silos. Most of the policy debates, social discussions or societal dialogues are exclusively race or religious centric. There are not many Malaysian centric dialogues or discussions. I can only generalise that the idea of a shared common destiny and a shared common identity has not sink into the mainstream thinking yet. We still put race and religion first, and society and nation second. Thus far, our national unity efforts are polemical, ritualistic and artificial at best. Henceforth, I would be interested to listen to suggestions from our speakers on how to reverse the current mindset.

Third, we need a political paradigm shift. Our model of power sharing is not premised on a zero-sum game. I would like to urge all politicians and aspiring politicians to look inside-out instead of outside-in. We have to be externally focused and forward looking. Remember, narrow communal assertion, slogan and chest-beating will only create more racist reactions. We need to re-examine the relevance and impact of populist race-centric political approach. We need to find if this approach is detrimental to our nation-building project and national unity agenda.

Fourth, I would like to warn Malaysians of a culture of exclusivity which is breeding in our society. This culture is trying to create exclusive groups within our society. What this culture is saying is if you are not one of us, you should mind your own business. Inevitably, this culture is limiting inter-civilisation dialogue and discussion. Another trajectory from this culture is the establishment of extremist groups which promote dangerous ideology and belief. The government has taken serious actions against any form of extremism and all kinds of extremist bantering. Fortunately, Barisan Nasional leaders are mindful that we need to protect our pluralistic nature.

The most challenging task is identifying a set of shared common values which all Malaysians can embrace and adopt as a collective value system. Perhaps, this forum could make an attempt to identify some of these shared common values and norms.

Harmonise Bangsa Malaysia with the New National Agenda

Nearly 50 years since independence, evidently our nation is searching for a new agenda. Over the past few weeks, our political scene is buzzing with a new proposal to adopt and implement a “New National Agenda”. In the era of globalisation characterises by constant change, we need a new agenda or a development strategy to ensure that we are keeping up with these changes. In this regard, our nation-building project should be harmonised with this new national agenda.

To construct an inclusive and conclusive national agenda, promoters of this agenda should understand the current realities faced by the nation. The agenda must be able to withstand rigorous public scrutiny. The essential elements in the agenda must be able to address current challenges faced by the society. The agenda must also be broad enough to accommodate the aspirations of all Malaysians, and not just any particular community alone.

We cannot resurrect something old and outdated from the past and call it ‘new’. This act is similar to pouring old sour wine into a new bottle. If we are not willing to embark upon a paradigm shift, this new national agenda will be an effort in futility.


Gerakan is not pioneering a new movement or creating a new community of ‘Bangsa Malaysia’. We believe that intrinsically, deep down the heart of all Malaysians, they cannot find any explicit reason to reject this proposition. A journey of a thousand miles must start with a first grand step. It is time that we examine how far we have travelled and the direction we are taking after almost 50 years of independence.

Finally, I hope you will this convention meaningful and worthwhile.

Thank you.

Dato’ Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik,
Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia.

For a historical perspective of the so-called “social contract”, I have plagiarized again as follows:

Mailbag From: Richard Yeoh To: Jeff Ooi Date: Aug 15, 2005 4:26 PM Subject: The Malaysian Social Contract

The debate on the Malaysian Social Contract is on again.

Less the debate goes on a tangent again, I submit that any rational debate should focus on the founding basis of the Malayan nation that came into being on 31st August 1957 (followed by the Malaysian nation in 1963) namely the "Social Contract" of 1957 that gave birth to the "Merdeka" Constitution of 1957.

I will not argue the case against the misinterpretation and distortion of the Social Contract for vested political and economic advantages on the part of the ruling elites as this was previously argued by Kim Quek in his article Unveiling the truth of Malay ‘Special Rights’ in an article dated Dec 04 2005.

If we wish to debate the principles of the Social Contract amongst the various communities that led to Independence of the new nation, we must refer to the Report of the Federation of Malaya Constitutional Commission 1957 (commonly referred to as "The Reid Commission Report") as this Report was the result of the representations, discussions, compromises and agreements amongst the various communities and groups that form our nation.

As the Report is very comprehensive and exhaustive, I shall focus on the main areas of controversy and misinterpretation that dog us to this day, with the intention solely of contributing to informed discussion.

I believe that the Yang DiPertuan Agong should convene a special consultative council comprising all stakeholders in the Malaysian nation to examine the issues rationally and positively so that we may forge a national consensus which must of course be founded upon the principles of democracy and equal citizenship.

The emphasis in bold and clarifications in bold italics are mine.

Citizenship for non-Malays and the Special Position of the Malays:

This was one of the fundamental ‘bargains’. In return for citizenship for all, it was agreed that the Malays’ special position should be safeguarded.

On this the Report had this to say:

Para. 163. Our terms of reference require that provision should be made in the Constitution for the “safeguarding of the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of the other Communities”. In addition, we are asked to provide for a common nationality for the whole of the Federation and to ensure that the Constitution shall guarantee a democratic form of Government. In considering these requirements it seemed to us that a common nationality was the basis upon which a united Malayan nation was to be created and that under a democratic form of government it was inherent that all citizens of Malaya, irrespective of race, creed or culture, should enjoy certain fundamental rights including equality before the law. We found it difficult, therefore, to reconcile the terms of reference if the protection of the special position of the Malays signified the granting of special privileges, permanently, to one community only and not to the others.

The difficulty of giving one community a permanent advantage over the others was realised by the Alliance Party (the forerunner of Barisan Nasional), representative of which, led by the Chief Minister, (Tunku Abdul Rahman) submitted that – “in an independent Malaya all nationals should be accorded equal rights, privileges and opportunities and there must not be discrimination on grounds of race and creed...” The same view was expressed by their Highnesses (the Malay Rulers) in their memorandum, in which they said that they “look forward to a time not too remote when it will become possible to eliminate Communalism as a force in the political and economic life of the country”.

Para. 164. When we came to determine what is “the special position of the Malays” we found that as a result of the original treaties with the Malay States, reaffirmed from time to time, the special position of the Malays has always been recognized. This recognition was continued by the provisions of clause 19(I)(d) of the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1948, which made the (British) High Commissioner responsible for safeguarding the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of the other communities. We found that there are now four matters with regard to which the special position of the Malays is recognized and safeguarded.

1. In most of the States there are extensive Malay reservations of land, and the system of reserving land for Malays has been in operation for many years. In every State the Ruler-in-Council has the power to permit a non-Malay to acquire a piece of land in a Malay reservation but the power is not used very freely. There have been some extensions of reservations in recent years but we do not know to what extent the proportion of reserved land has been increasing.

2. There are now in operation quotas for admission to the public services. These quotas do not apply to all services, e.g., there is no quota for the police and, indeed, there is difficulty in getting a sufficient proportion of non-Malays to join the police. Until 1953 admission to the Malayan Civil Service was only open to British subjects of European descent and to Malays but since that date there has been provision for one-fifth of the entrants being selected from the other communities. In other services in which a quota exists the rule generally is that not more than one-quarter of new entrants should be non-Malays.

3. There are also now in operation quotas in respect of the issuing of permits or licences for the operation of certain businesses. These are chiefly concerned with road haulage and passenger vehicles for hire. Some of these quotas are of recent introduction. The main reasons for them appear to be that in the past the Malays have lacked capital and have tended to remain on the land and not to take part in business, and that this is one method of encouraging Malays to take a larger part in business enterprises.

4. In many classes of scholarships, bursaries and other forms of aid for educational purpose preference is given to Malays. The reason for this appears to be that in the past higher education of the Malays has tended to fall behind that of the Chinese, partly because the Chinese have been better able to pay for it and partly because it is more difficult to arrange higher education for Malays in the country than Chinese in the towns.

Para. 165. We found little opposition in any quarter to the continuance of the present system for a time, but there was great opposition in some quarters to any increase of the present preferences and to their being continued for any prolonged period. We are of opinion that in present circumstances it is necessary to continue these preferences. The Malays would be at a serious and unfair disadvantage compared with other communities if they were suddenly withdrawn. But, with the integration of the various communities into a common nationality which we trust will gradually come about, the need for these preferences will gradually disappear. Our recommendations are made on the footing that the Malays should be assured that the present position will continue for a substantial period, but that in due course the present preferences should be reduced and should ultimately cease so that there should be no discrimination between races or communities.

Para. 166. With regard to land, we recommend that, subject to two qualifications, there should be no further Malay reservations, but that each state should be left to reduce Malay reservations in that State at an appropriate time. Land is a State matter and we do not recommend giving overriding powers to the Federation in this matter. We do not think that it is possible to lay down in advance any time in when a change should be made because conditions vary greatly from State to State. The two qualifications to the rule that there be no further reservations are: first, that if any land at present reserved ceases to be reserved, an equivalent area may be reserved provided that it is not already occupied by a non-Malay; and, secondly, that if any undeveloped land is opened up, part of it may be reserved provided that an equivalent area is made available to non-Malays.

Para. 167. The effect of our recommendation is that with regard to other preferences to Malays no new quota or other preference could be created. These preferences can only be lawfully created or continued to the extent to which that is specifically authorized by the Constitution. With regard to the existing quotas which we have referred to above we recommend that the Malays ought to have a substantial period during which the continuance of the existing quotas is made obligatory, but that, if in any year there are not enough Malay applicants qualified to fill the their quota of vacancies, the number of appointments should not be reduced and other qualified applicants should be appointed in sufficient numbers to fill the vacancies. We recommend that after 15 years there should be a review of the whole matter and that the procedure should be that the appropriate Government should cause a report to be made and laid before the appropriate legislature; and that legislature should then determine either to retain or to reduce any quota or to discontinue it entirely.

State Religion:

On this the Report had this to say.

Para. 169. We have considered the question whether there should be any statement in the Constitution to the effect that Islam should be the State religion. There was universal agreement that if any provision were inserted it must be made clear that it would not in any way affect the civil rights of non-Muslims. In the memorandum submitted by the Alliance (forerunner of the Barisan Nasional) it was stated-“the religion of Malaysia (sic) shall be Islam. The observance of this principle shall not impose any disability on non-Muslim nationals professing and practicing their own religions and shall not imply that the State is not a secular State.” There is nothing in the draft Constitution to affect the continuance of the present position in the States with regard to the recognition of Islam or to prevent the recognition of Islam in the Federation by legislation or otherwise in any respect which does not prejudice the civil rights of individual non-Muslims. The majority of us think that it is best to leave the matter on this basis, looking to the fact that Counsel for the Rulers said to us It is Their Highness’ (the Malays Rulers’) considered view that it would not be desirable to insert some declaration such as has been suggested that the Muslim Faith or Islamic Faith be the established religion of the Federation. Their Highnesses are not in favour of such a declaration being inserted and that is a matter of specific instruction in which I myself have played very little part.” Mr. Justice Abdul Hamid is of the opinion that a declaration should be inserted in the Constitution as suggested by the Alliance and his views are set out in his note appended to this report.

(Note: The Alliance’s proposal was ultimately included in the Merdeka Constitution)

Delimitation of Constituencies:

On this the Report (inter alia) had this to say.

Para. 74. In delimiting constituencies within a State it would be in accord with general practice elsewhere and it is, in our opinion, necessary in the Federation that regard should be had not only to the number of voters in each constituency but also to the total population, the sparsity or density of population, the means of communication, and the distribution of different communities. We recommend that the Commission (i.e. the Election Commission) should be required to have regard to these factors, but, in order to prevent too great weight being given to any one of them, we recommend that the number of voters in any constituency should not be more than 15 percent. above or below the average for the State.

(Note: This limitation was in the Merdeka Constitution but subsequently amended, and then removed altogether by Parliament.

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