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?
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