Thursday, September 18, 2014

Accommodating diversity by Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi - The STAR

Sabah and Sarawak’s special position in our federation is based on compelling socio-political, economic, geographical and legal considerations.
THERE is no universal or single set of “best practices” or institutional and constitutional designs to manage conflicts arising out of ethnic, religious, linguistic and geographical diversity. Generally, however, a federal system of government is better suited than a unitary system for accommodating diversity in a plural and divided society.
The extent of autonomy and distinctiveness allowed to the various regions (provinces, states or cantons) varies from country to country. Much depends on what the goal of the dominant elites is: is it repression, exclusion, assimilation or integration?
Repression is done through genocide and ethnic cleansing as in former Yugoslavia. Exclusion involves marginalisation of minority groups and denial to them of any meaningful economic or political participation in society.
Assimilation involves strong pressures on minorities to abandon their values, cultures, beliefs and languages and submerge into the national main. Catalans in Spain, Bretons in France, Scots and Welsh in the United Kingdom and, increasingly, Muslim emigrants in Europe suffered or are suffering such melting pot pressures.
On the other hand, integration (or inclusion and empowerment) is based on the recognition of diversity as a defining characteristic of the polity. Malaya in 1957 and, even more so, Malaysia in 1963 were inspired by the inclusivist approach that each constituent group can preserve its language, culture and custom and yet participate fully in the nation’s political and economic processes.
In 1963 in recognition of the uniqueness of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore, these states were offered terms far more favourable than what the peninsula states received in 1957. (See The Star, Sept 16).
However, fifty-one years down the road, such preferential treatment is arousing deeply opposing and partisan views. Some “nationalists” in the peninsula feel that five decades after Malaysia Day, distinctiveness must give way to more unity and uniformity on such issues as free travel and right to live and work throughout the federation.
They point to spectacular cases of over-assertiveness by Sabah and Sarawak of some of their special rights e.g. to refuse admission to and to deport Peninsular Malaysians legitimately seeking to enter these states. Some of these incidents indeed arouse constitutional concern. But all in all, Sabah’s and Sarawak’s special position in our federation is based on compelling socio-political, economic, geographical and legal considerations:
> Sabah and Sarawak were and are ethnically, culturally and religiously distinct from the peninsula.
> They bring huge territories to the federation. Their combined area of 198,069sq km exceeds Peninsular Malaysia’s 131,681sq km.
> Their combined coastline is 2,607km compared with the peninsula’s 2,068km.
> They have massive potential resources in fisheries, ports, forests, timber, petroleum, river waters, hydroelectric power and tourism.
> Despite these resources they have serious problems of poverty, illiteracy, lack of infrastructure and under-development.
> The 1963 pact between the Federation of Malaya, the UK, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore was drawn up after a lengthy process of bargaining and negotiations. The delegates of these states made very clear to the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) headed by Lord Lansdowne, with then deputy prime minister Tun Abdul Razak as the deputy chairman, that special treatment was a pre-condition for constituting Malaysia.
> The 1963 pact was not merely an internal arrangement but an international treaty.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The familiar lamentations of Dr M by By Baradan Kuppusamy - The STAR

The former premier’s latest remarks about ‘lazy Malays’ cause a stir among Malaysians.
TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad used to have only two upmarket bakery outlets known as The Loaf – one in the picturesque Telaga Harbour, where luxury yachts berth in Pulau Langkawi, and the other at Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur.
The number of his outlets, which sell breads and pastries using Japanese techniques, has grown to more than five. As such, he has to hire more staff.
A few months ago, a manager was caught stealing money from the cash register.
The suspicion began when the daily collection was not deposited into the bank. The Malay manager was caught red-handed and the incident infuriated Dr Mahathir.
“I am operating a bakery and have given many opportunities to Malays to hold management positions. Unfortunately, time and time again, honesty and integrity appear to be lacking as there have been staff who keep stealing money,” he said at the launch of the book Wahai Melayu: Allah Tak Akan Ubah Nasib Melayu Kalau Kita Tak Ubah Nasib Kita Sendiri by Anas Zubedy.
“They do not seem to understand that it is wrong to take what is not theirs; they do not think of the big picture or the long term,” he said.
The statesman repeated the criticism in an interview with Utusan Malaysia last Sunday.
That led to various interpretations, particularly on his criticism of the leadership, especially the current prime minister, especially at a time when the Umno general assembly is coming up.
But those present at the book launch believe that his remarks were in line with what he has consistently brought up, whenever the occasion suited it. They dismissed any suspicion of political conspiracy.
The book by Anas, a writer and speaker on motivation, is aimed at young Malay entrepreneurs. In the foreword, the author debunks the myth that the Malays are a lazy race who are only good in politics and the arts, but not in business.
“These are self-limiting artificial boundaries and we ought to break them,” he writes.
“What we need to do is to find the right motivation and inspiration for a specific culture like the Malays.”
But in his hard-hitting speech, Dr Mahathir spent 20 minutes arguing that Malays “lack honesty and inte­grity” and that they fail to “handle money properly” unlike the Chinese or even Myanmar nationals.
Ethnic Chinese, he said, were more honest compared to native Malays where money is concerned. He said these were the reasons for the Malays’ economic failures.
“We have to be trustworthy so people will give contracts to us. When we want to give contracts, we give to the Chinese instead because we know they will do their work properly. This is our weakness – not being trustworthy,” he added.
“If we fail, we should not blame anyone but ourselves. We have failed because we did not do what was right,” he said.
In the Utusan interview, Dr Maha­thir said Malay men were still lazy, citing the gender imbalance at institutions of higher learning, where the majority was women.
“They (the men) are not interested in studying and revising. If we go to the universities, 70% of the students are women. Where are the men?”
“They prefer to be Mat Rempit, that is why I said they are lazy.”
Dr Mahathir’s comments raised a storm, with some in social media suggesting that he should be arrested for sedition. The Selangor chapter of Malay rights group Perkasa, however, termed his remarks as “father­­ly advice”.
Veteran journalist Datuk Kadir Ja­­sin reportedly said people should not get upset or sulk over Dr Maha­thir’s remarks, especially with regards to the Malays being lazy, as there were those who were hardworking and excelled in whatever they did.
“Give them a crutch and they will turn it into a paddle and a pillar,” he said, adding that there were those from the community who had succeeded and made a name for themselves in the country and all over the world.
Citing legendary warrior Hang Tuah’s famous rallying cry that Malays would not vanish from the world, Kadir said the Malays were rulers and made up the bulk of the civil service, such as the police force, Customs and Immigration departments, and the teaching profession.
Not all Malaysians would agree with Dr Mahathir’s assessment, with some saying he is still caught up in racial stereotyping, even if it is aimed at his own community.
Nobody in his right mind would say Malays are lazy, Chinese are greedy, or Indians are disho­nest. In fact, few Malaysians, especially the younger ones, would link any race in Malaysia with any specific trait or even a vocation.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Have A Meaningful Hari Malaysia - Today in The STAR

Tun Mohammad Fuad Stephens (1920-1976)
Bapa Malaysia dari Sabah and the first Huguan Siou or Paramount Leader of the Kadazandusun community

Back to basics: Both Hari Merdeka and Hari Malaysia are special and not in competition with each other. 

Hari Merdeka and Hari Malaysia are our special days.

We celebrate both days with joy, love, passion, and a really heavy dose of the muhibbah spirit. On Hari Merdeka, Semenanjung Tanah Melayu achieved independence in a peaceful way without sacrificing a single life.  This peaceful approach became our framework of engagement which is embedded in our DNA; always finding the best compromise in solving our challenges without having to resort to vulgarity or violence. 

On Hari Malaysia, the people of the Semenanjung, Sabah, and Sarawak reached out to each other and decided to form a larger family. In one stroke we melted our past, present, and future into one unique powerful and colourful alloy - MALAYSIA. This union of people from different cultures and backgrounds becomes the essence of humanity and a great historical achievement.

Sadly, there are some Malaysians who like to pit Hari Merdeka against Hari Malaysia and vice versa. Some say that Hari Merdeka has no significance to the Sabahans and Sarawakians and Hari Malaysia does not mean much to the people in Semenanjung. It is like saying a younger sibling cannot celebrate and share the joy of the birthday of an elder sibling and vice versa. This is unwise, shallow, and divisive.

We need to convince these brother and sister Malaysians otherwise; that we need to be more positive and always embrace Unity.

We at zubedy want to go further. Through our #SaySomethingNice Campaign we want to make the 17 days, beginning from Hari Merdeka to Hari Malaysia, as special days where we bring out the best of Malaysia, put aside our differences and see the better in each other. Say sorry when necessary and say thank you abundantly. Visit the link* provided below to know more about other ways to join the campaign and do something nice to fellow Malaysians and our country.

At zubedy, our programs draw strength from shared values and traditions. We believe that at heart, all Malaysians want good things for themselves and for their Malaysian brothers and sisters, simply because our nation cannot prosper as a whole if some of us are left behind.

Let us be, first and foremost, Malaysians.

Let us add value,

Have A Meaningful Hari Malaysia

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fight sedition or promote harmony? by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar - The STAR

WHEN Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced more than two years ago that the Sedition Act 1948 would be repealed and replaced by a National Harmony Act, I welcomed the proposal on behalf of Yayasan 1Malaysia. In the last few months, however, some prominent Malaysians have publicly argued for the retention of the Sedition Act.
While there is some merit in their arguments, they overlook the undeniable fact that the basic thrust of the Act runs counter to the spirit of the most fundamental law that governs the life of our nation, namely, the Malaysian Constitution.
Our Constitution envisages a democratic polity that respects the freedom of expression. “A democratic way of life” is also one of the five cherished goals of our national charter, the Rukun Negara.
Our national vision, Wawasan 2020, also speaks of fostering a mature democracy as one of our nine strategic challenges.
The Sedition Act was conceived by the British colonial government as an instrument to suppress any challenge to the colonial authority which explains why the Act was formulated and enforced in a number of British colonies.
Though it has been amended since Merdeka, the Act in essence takes a negative view of dissent and ideas that differ from those espoused by the powers-that-be. It is, to all intents and purposes, a law that seeks to protect and perpetuate the interests of the ruling authority.
Nonetheless, the supporters of the Sedition Act have some legitimate concerns. Will the repeal of the Act result in challenges to the position of Islam as the religion of the nation, or the status of the Malay language as the sole official and national language or the role of the Sultans as constitutional monarchs, all of which are protected in the Sedition Act?
These concerns have come to the fore largely because of continuous and persistent attacks on these constitutional provisions in the alternative media. What has exacerbated the situation is the vile and vicious language employed by these peddlers of vitriolic venom.
If we are committed to inter-religious and inter-ethnic harmony and peace, we will have to ensure that the proposed National Harmony Act takes full cognizance of these concerns.
Indeed, all those clauses incorporated into the Sedition Act following the 1971 amendments to the Constitution pertaining to:
1) the special position of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of the other communities;
2) the status of Malay language as the sole official and national language and the right to use and study other languages;
3) citizenship and
4) the role of the Sultans as constitutional monarchs, should be integrated into the new National Harmony Act.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

New Politics, Rekindle the Malaysia Spirit - Anas Zubedy, An Interview with Durian Asean

2014 09 01 ASEAN Breakfast Call: New Politics – Rekindle The Malaysia Spirit - Anas Zubedy, An Interview with Durian Asean

Rekindle the spirit of Merdeka by Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi - The STAR

The Malay-Muslim features of theConstitution are balanced by provision suitable for ourdazzlingly diverse society.
AS we bask in the after-glow of our independence day celebrations, it is appropriate to view afresh the beautiful constitutional canopy that provided the legal, political and social framework for our nascent democracy.
Like all constitutions, our basic law was chiselled by competing considerations. Historical realities, economic imperatives, the emerging democratic idealism of the post-war era, and ethnic, religious, cultural, linguistic, geopolitical and anti-colonial sentiments all contributed to produce a balanced, workable and pragmatic blueprint.
The document of destiny that was adopted as the Federal Constitution was a masterpiece of compromise, compassion and moderation. It provided a rock-solid foundation for our society’s hitherto exemplary political stability, economic prosperity and inter-communal peace and harmony.
> Indigenous features: In recognition of the fact that Malaya was historically the land of the Malays, the Merdeka Constitution incorporated a number of features indigenous to the Malay archipelago, among them the Malay Sultanate, Islam as the religion of the Federation, legal restrictions on preaching of other faiths to Muslims, the grant of special position to the Malays, Malay reserve land, Bahasa Malaysia as the official language, special protection for Malay customs, weightage for rural areas (which are predominantly Malay) in the drawing up of electoral boundaries and the reserving of some top State posts like Mentri Besar in the Malay States for Malay-Muslims.
> Protection for non-Malays: The Malay-Muslim features of the Constitution are balanced by many provisions suitable for our dazzlingly diverse, multi-racial and multi-religious society.
At the stroke of midnight on Aug 31, 1957, citizenship was granted to nearly 1.3 million non-Malays. This was a remarkable act of accommodation for the age. Part III of the Constitution on citizenship does not impose race or religious prerequisites.
The electoral process permits all communities an equal right to vote and to seek elective office at both federal and state levels.
Subject to some exceptions, the chapter on fundamental liberties grants the fundamental right to speech, assembly, association, religion, education and property to all citizens.
At the federal level, membership of the judiciary, the Cabinet, Parliament, the public services and the special Commissions under the Constitution are open to all citizens.
Education is free at the primary and secondary levels and is open to all.
University education is subjected to Article 153 quotas. However to open up educational opportunities for non-Malays, local and foreign private schools, colleges and universities are allowed. Education abroad is available to whoever wishes to seek it. Government education scholarships are given to many non-Malays though this is an area where a large discontent has developed over the proportions allocated.
Even during a state of emergency under Article 150, some rights like citizenship, religion and language are protected by Article 150(6A) against easy repeal.
Though Islam is the religion of the Federation, Malaysia is not an Islamic state. The syariah does not apply to non-Muslims. All religious communities are allowed to profess and practice their faiths in peace and harmony. State support by way of funds and grant of land is often given to other religions.
Missionaries and foreign priests are allowed. Every religious group has the right to establish and maintain religious institutions for the education of its children.
Though Bahasa Malaysia is the national language for all official purposes there is protection for the formal study in all schools of other languages if 15 or more pupils so desire. There is a right to use other languages for unofficial purposes. Under the Education Act, there is legal protection for the existence of vernacular schools.
Though Article 89 reserves some lands for Malays, it is also provided that no non-Malay land shall be appropriated for Malay reserves and that if any land is reserved for Malay reservation, an equivalent amount of land shall be opened up for non-Malays.
Article 153 on the special position of Malays is hedged in by limitations. First, along with his duty to protect the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak, the King is enjoined to safeguard the legitimate interests of other communities.
Second, the special position of the Malays applies only in the public sector. Third, it extends to only four prescribed sectors and services.
Fourth, no non-Malay or his heir should be deprived of what he already has. Fifth, no business or profession can be exclusively assigned to any race.
Sixth, Article 153 does not override Article 136. Quotas and reservations are permitted at entry point but once a person is in the public service he should be treated equally.
The spirit of give and take between the races, regions and religions is especially applicable in relation to Sabah and Sarawak. In 1963, the Federal Constitution was significantly rewritten to grant considerable autonomy to the former Borneo States in the federal structure. There is protection for native law and conferment of special position on the natives of Sabah and Sarawak akin to the position of the Malays in the peninsula.
> Accommodative politics: In addition to the above legal provisions, the rainbow coalition that has ruled the country for the last 2+57 years is built on an overwhelming spirit of accommodation between