Sunday, December 31, 2006

"Special Position of the Malays"

If anyone is interested in some of the less publicised insights to how Malaya's independence was achieved and the relationship between our founding fathers and political parties, read the New Straits Times excerpt on the story of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, a Malaysian giant whose role stretched from the struggle for Independence right through to the aftermath of May 13, has been largely unknown.

More interestingly however, was Tun Dr Ismail's personal views on the "Special Position of the Malays" when drafting the constitution.
...the leaders of the Alliance realised the practical necessity of giving the Malays a handicap if they were to compete on equal terms with the other races. The only point of controversy was the duration of the ‘special position’ — should there be a time limit or should it be permanent?

I made a suggestion which was accepted, that the question be left to the Malays themselves because I felt that as more and more Malays became educated and gained self-confidence, they themselves would do away with this ‘special position’.

In itself, this ‘special position’ is a slur on the ability of the Malays and only to be tolerated because it is necessary as a temporary measure to ensure their survival in the modern competitive world: a world to which only those in the urban areas had been exposed.

This analysis provides insight into how Dr Ismail perceived the Malayan situation. What is striking is Dr Ismail’s belief that the Malays would do the right thing in the long run, as well as his faith in the Alliance as a model of government capable of meeting these challenges taken as a whole.
Hence, should Tun Dr Ismail's account of ideas behind the manner in which the constitution was drafted is accurate, it would not be wrong to say that the "special position" of the Malays was never meant to be permanent.

Unfortunately, the interpretation of the handicap or 'special position' granted to the Malays as "a slur on the ability of the Malays" is no longer the views of the UMNO leaders in power today. The 'special position' is now defended by UMNOputras as a 'right' instead of the original spirit of the constitution which was a 'privilege'.

Tun Dr Ismail was obviously wrong to have believed that "more Malays became educated and gained self-confidence, they themselves would do away with this 'special position'". Despite many educated UMNOputra multi-millionaires, these very same beneficiaries of the 'special position' seeks only to entrench the privilege and further enlarge its function in Malaysia's economy and society.

Will we see the day when an UMNO leader espousing the views of Tun Dr Ismail and spark a return to the spirit of our Merdeka Constitution?

9 comments:

Trashed said...

History has shown that there are some elements who have deviated from the spirit of the then Malaya. Hence, the Malaysian rakyat seem to be more apart than united. A sad state of affairs entering the 50th Anniversary of Merdeka.

Tun Dr Ismail, we need you!

Anonymous said...

Tun Dr Ismail is one of the Father Figure of pre and post independence days that is still respected today. Not only he is well-respected for his quiet and down-to-earth nature of his political thinking and works, his ideas and personal account are very much relevant and alive today. We very much needed more Tun Dr Ismails of today. But sadly, NO politicians within UMNO even come close. This is the sad truth.

Anonymous said...

Ismail is far sighted. When Malays becomes more educated , they will relinquish Malay Special rights lest it cast doubt on the legitimacy of their achievement.

The problem is that the bunch of Malay Tun Ismail purpotedly had in mind has not reached a critical mass. With all the rote learning and lack of critical thinking in our education system, we might end up with horders of youngsters with university degrees but NOT EDUCATION.

You might speculate that it is not in UMNO's interest to teach students to think critically for it might entail the beginning of its downfall.

nerd said...

I think that notwithstanding the current positions of the Malays, it's extremely hard to bring down UMNO thru conventional methods a.k.a General Election when we look at the it from the economic viewpoint. It's too powerful fundamentally and financially. The 'improbable' defeat of UMNO will mark the economic disaster for the country. Does PAS seem a suitable alternative? I don't think so...

Anonymous said...

I for one don't know that much about Tun Ismail. I frankly only recall that after taking over the Finance and DPM portfolio that he was much liberal fiscally than Tan Siew Sin. It was because spending was out of control that Mahathir had to implement cost cutting when he became PM and finally relaxed foreign investment rules.

Nik Nazmi said...

Tun Ismail was never finance minister.

Following the 13 May crisis Tun Razak took over from Tun Tan Siew Sin, before Tun Tan Siew Sin resumed the portfolio. In 1974, Tun Hussein Onn replaced him.

Anonymous said...

TDI was too optimistic and did not understand Malays.

The truth is many Malays (especially Umnoputras) have benefited from NEP. They are well educated and are doing very well compared to the other ethnic groups. However, they do not wish to do away with this ‘special position’. They want to continue to enjoy the special and easy paths. They also want their children to enjoy the ‘special position’.

Umnoputras become greedy and demand that NEP remains never-ending!

Anonymous said...

TDI overestimated the intelligence and sense of fair play of HUMANITY. To expect that the majority of people(in this case the malays) would "do the right thing" is wishful thinking. Give someone a privilege and they'll want it forever. Only the few rare ones would resist the help.

st said...

Special right, to someone will mean lesser right to others who are competing on the same ground. Like in 100 meters, the special right group will run at 10 meters ahead, no one will want to run with him.

Special right, will cease to be effective, if the 100% of them are of the same species, which will create 90 meters run.

In the long run, the lesser right will choose a place where he or she have the equal opportunity, if he or she has the opportunity.
You would have the "brain drain", one of the ideal place is Singapore, where we all run 100 meters. Let someone claiming to run 90 meters approved in the global arena.