Misconstruing the Constitution - Let's Stop Doing It!
By Ramon Navaratnam
The Malaysian constitution has been misinterpreted and misconstrued after 1970 in a wide ranging and consistent manner.Hence it has led to polarisation and exclusiveness that has built disunity into the Malaysian polity . This negative trend has been reinforced by the intrinsic promotion an subtle practice of "ketuananship" or Malay dominance and domination.
For instance article 153, provides for the ``special position `` of the Malays as well as the ``legitimate interests of the other communities ``. But it is the former constitutional provision that has been emphasized and the latter relatively neglected . This is the root cause for divisiveness and the source of much dissatisfaction for all fair minded Malaysians.
The so-called ``social contract `` is perhaps the most misinterpreted and misconstrued in the debate on national unity and nation building for the following reasons and there has to be more constructive debate on this critical issue , to promote national unity ;--
Firstly , there is no evidence of any written social contract . It’s being presented as something in concrete and is being perpetuated constantly to give the concept some credibility.
Secondly , admittedly there was an unwritten understanding that the ``special position `` of the Malays would be protected while about 1 million non-Malays were offered citizenship.
But unfortunately many politicians and even academics choose to ignore the fact that the citizenship was given as a matter of the birth right of these 1 million non-Malays and was also a requirement that the Malay elite and political leaders at that time, had to accept in order for the British to agree to grant Merdeka (independence) to Malaya, practically on a silver platter .
Thirdly, it is becoming fashionable for some politicians and even elitist leaders to claim that the ``special position `` of the malays is being challenged . This is not true . However the implementation of article 153 of the constitution pertaining to the affirmative action policies, such as the``New Economic Policy``, is being constantly queried by tax payers and others who wish to fight the abuses of the implementation of the NEP and the consequent wastage of public funds and the many inefficiencies in implementation .
Fourthly, what is misconstrued now is to extend these preferences in scholarships , licences , permits , housing and government contracts, etc , well after the original target period of 20 years i.e. until 1990 . Now this protective and preferential policy is being perpetuated as if it will be implemented forever ? This single factor is causing much uncertainty and a severe lack of confidence, which is aggravating the huge ``brain drain`` of talented professional Malaysians of all races amounting to hundreds of thousands !
Fifthly, the government claims that the 30% equity target has not yet been met , is now being seriously challenged. About RM50 billion has been allocated over the years to achieve the restructuring target! What has happened to these vast sums of money – where has it all gone too? And how much more needs to be spent and for how long more? These are legitimate questions, from local and foreign investors and from Malaysian tax payers, which must be answered soon .
In conclusion, those who criticise others who question the quality of implementation of the NEP, should be asked whether they are sincere in protecting the interests of the poor ? Or are they wanting to prevent criticism of the social contract and affirmative action in order to benefit from the special position of the Malays, for their own selfish gains and not those of the low income Malays and others, who deserve our full support ?
We have to be honest and sincere in promoting national unity and thinking like true Malaysians in order to protect the integrity of our nation and its sustained long term peace, stability and progress , please .
(Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam is a prominent civil society leader, a former top government servant and personally helped to draft the New Economic Policy)