The Malaysian Concord (Part 4) – The Position and Function of the Malay Rulers

This article follows a previous one on the Malay and Bumiputera special rights.

A couple of days ago it was made known to the public that the street names in a certain suburb of Shah Alam were changed to Chinese characters, in contravention of Sections 2 and 9 of the National Language Act, 1963/67.

Yesterday, HRH The Sultan of Selangor decreed that the street names be taken down and replaced by ones in the Malay language, which is the National Language.

I mentioned in a previous post that a national language is a tool to unite the peoples of Malaysia. 

It was the intention of our forefathers in the quest for independence to have ONE language to unite all, and that is the Malay language with a Romanised written form, so that the non-Malays could learn the Malay language rapidly (Tunku Abdul Rahman, The Road to Independence, 1984: pp.112-114).

I gather that those were the reasons His Royal Highness issued the decree mentioned above – in line with one of the functions of the Malay Rulers: to care for the people’s welfare.  Therefore, if there is any issue that may cause tension, the Malay Rulers will step in to remind the people to respect each other and to respect the laws.

What I find disgusting in this episode is that the local government, or local council, allowed for the street name change to happen, forgetting that every instrument of the government is acting on His Majesty’s Service.

Not too long ago, all government envelopes had URUSAN SERI PADUKA BAGINDA stamped at the top; that was until someone who was not fond of the Rulers changed that to URUSAN KERAJAAN.

 

Essentially, all government branches, including the Federal cabinet as well as the state executive councillors, are acting on behalf of the Yang DiPertuan Agong and Sultan (in the case of states).  

They are not independent of the Rulers – which is why they are sworn in before the Agong or the Sultan.

The Malay Rulers have divested much of their independence now as they did before during the period of British administration.

However, both they and their state remain sovereign. Independence is not equal to sovereignty.

The British were here through the various treaties signed with the respective Malay Rulers.  Save for the Japanese occupation, Malayan Union period, Pulau Pinang, Melaka and for a while, Pangkor, the Dindings and Larut, Peninsular Malaysia was never under British colonial rule.

There were three test cases to determine the sovereignty of the Rulers and the state they ruled:

 

  1. The infamous Mighell v The Sultan of Johore (1894) where it was ruled that, although the Sultan by treaty had bound himself not to exercise some rights of a sovereign ruler, this did not deprive him of his character as an independent sovereign;
  2. In Duff Development Company Limited v The Government of Kelantan (1924), the House of Lords similarly upheld the sovereignty of Kelantan and its Ruler was not intended to be qualified by the terms of the treaty.
  3. In Pahang Consolidated Company Limited v State of Pahang (1933), the Privy Council summarised the constitutional position in Pahang as follows: subject to the limitations which the Sultan had from time to time imposed upon himself, he remained ‘an absolute ruler in whom resides all legislative and executive power.’ (See, 1894; Q.B 1924; A.C and M.L.J).

The British were in the Malay states to assist the Malay Rulers in the administration and management of their respective states, and were under the Rulers’ payroll.  

The only matters that they could not touch were the states’ Islamic affairs and Malay customs.

Sir Frederick Lugard wrote of the British Residents:

“From the first to last the theoretical independence of the states was the governing factor in the system evolved in Malaya. The so-called ‘Resident’ was in fact a Regent, practically uncontrolled by the Governor or Whitehall, governing his ‘independent’ state by direct, personal rule, with or without the co-operation of the native ruler.” (Sir F.D Lugard, The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa, London, 1926: pp.130-1, vid. pp.8-10).

One such Resident was of course James Wheeler Woodford Birch who, in the words of Sir Richard Olaf Winstedt, “dashed into Perak’s Augean Stables like an angry Victorian schoolmaster, confident that it could all be cleaned up with a little firmness and decision.” (Winstedt, History of Perak, JMBRAS, xii, 1).

Birch’s monumental tactlessness, especially over the regulation of taxes, drove all the Sultan’s Chiefs into frantic opposition which resulted in his assassination in 1875.

Other than the occasional odd behaviour by some Residents, the Malay Rulers and their state remained sovereign and ‘independent’.  In an answer to Colonel Josiah Wedgwood (Labour – Newcastle-under-Lyme) about the control over the states of Malaya, Sir Phillip Cunliffe-Lister (Conservative – Hendon), Secretary of State for the Colonies replied:

“There is no question at all of altering in any degree, even by a comma, the Treaties which bind us, and which are charters of the agreements with the Rulers both of the Federated and the Unfederated Malay States.” (British Parliament Hansard, Commons Sitting, Class II, HC Deb 14 July 1933 vol 280 cc 1429).

With the Independence of Malaya, all the administrative powers handed down by the Malay Rulers to the Federal and State Councils was passed to the government that was chosen by the people of Malaya in the 1955 elections.  

The Federal cabinet administer the government of the Yang DiPertuan Agong, who was elected by the Malay Rulers to represent Their Highnesses at Federal level, while the Menteri Besar and state executive councillors administer the state for the Sultans.

The Malay Rulers, as owners of this land, continue to enjoy their position with their income regulated by the respective laws, and receive advice from the Menteris Besar (or in the case of the Yang DiPertuan Agong, the Prime Minister). 

This is evident in Article 181(1) of the Federal Constitution which states:

“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution,” the “sovereignty, prerogatives, powers and jurisdiction of the Rulers…as hitherto had and enjoyed shall remain unaffected.”

The same was noted by Mark R Gillen of the Faculty of Law, University of Victoria (Gillen 1994:7). 

In the words of the late Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah, former Lord President, it is:

“a mistake to think that the role of a King, like that of a President, is confined to what is laid down by the Constitution, His role far exceeds those constitutional provisions” (Azlan Shah 1986:89).

In 1867, Bagehot asserted in “The English Constitution” that the Constitution needed two parts: the dignified – to excite and preserve the reverence of the population’ and the other, the efficient – to ‘employ that homage in the work of government’. 

The monarch was the prime example of dignity in this sense and the Prime Minister (Menteri Besar) and his cabinet (executive councillors) of efficiency.  

Therefore, the monarch, while lacking executive power, had an important constitutional role.

HRH The Sultan of Selangor was correct in the exercise of his function when reminding the people to not touch on the matters that have been agreed upon and are already enshrined in the Constitution – the sanctity of Islam, the National Language, the Malay and Bumiputera special rights, and the position and function of the Malay Rulers.  

Such action, had the Sultan not interjected, would be naïve and dangerous to the fabric of the society.

In the words of Sultan Nazrin Muizuddin Shah of Perak in July 2011:

“Rulers must use wisdom to calm situations, but they do not have a ‘magic lamp’ to keep unity, especially when the situation has become chaotic. “

(This article was first published on The Mole)

The Malaysian Concord (Part 3) – The Malay and Bumiputera Special Rights

Recent protest against ICERD – Bernama

One of the functions and roles of the Malay Rulers is to safeguard the interests of the Malay and Bumiputera communities enshrined in the Federal Constitution.  That is what HRH The Sultan of Selangor did when he voiced out against ICERD and liberalism.

In the previous posts (The Malaysian Concord (Part 1) – The Sanctity of Islam and The Malaysian Concord (Part 2) – The National Language) I have shown you why Islam was made the religion of the Federation, and why the Malay language was made into the National Language.  I also explained why the Reid Commission was just a commission and not a party to the discussions and negotiations to the independence of Malaya and whatever put forth by the commission were recommendations for the Constitution, not the hard-and-fast rule.

The Malay precedence had always been the mantle of the British Residents.  Frank Athelstane Swettenham, the first Resident-General of the Federated Malay States, saw himself as the patron to an heir (the Malays) who was in danger of losing his inheritance to the immigrant Chinese and Tamils.  He wrote:

“The position he occupies in the body politic is that of the heir to the inheritance. The land is Malaya and he is the Malay. Let the infidel Chinese and evil-smelling Hindu from southern India toil, but of their work let some profit come to him.” (Sir Frank Swettenham, The Real Malay (London, 1899): pp. 37-40)

The economic situation of the Malays, pushed to the hinterland by the immigrants, became dire that they had to take loans from the chettiars putting their land as collateral.  When even the interest could not be serviced, these lands were taken into possession by the moneylenders.

The Federated Malay States government intervened and introduced a series of legislations to curb the Chettiars’ operations, one of which was the Malay Reservations Enactment, 1913, which objective was “to provide means for preventing the passing of Malay landholdings into the possession of foreigners”(Frederick Belfield, Legal Adviser, FMS, Report for the Secretary of State on the FMS Enactment 15 of 1913).

In 1910, E.W Birch, the 8thResident of Perak, noted the need for such Enactment:

“It will mean that we shall free our peasantry from the clutches of those people who now remit to India the large sums of which they now bleed the people.”(Hastings Rhodes, Objects and Reasons, Malay Reservations Enactment of 1913, quoting a Minute by E.W Birch dated 7 September 1910; in Selangor Secretariat, File 3013/1912, Conf. File 10/1912).

Two constitutional changes were introduced in 1909, the establishment of a Federal Council, and the enactment to change the title Resident-Generalin the FMS to that of Chief Secretary.

The Governor responsible for these introductions, Sir John Anderson, said that the intention of these changes, in his words, was for“the full safeguarding of Malay interests.” (Proceedings of the Federal Council, FMS, 11 December 1909).

Sir Laurence Guillemard, High Commissioner for the Federated Malay States wrote:

“The moral is clear that real danger lies ahead if the Malays do not get their share of the benefit of the development of their own country.”(C.O 273, Vol 539, Laurence Guillemard to Secretary of State, 3 May 1927).

To put things in perspective, not only were the Malays left out economically, they were also already minorities in the Federated Malay States.  According to the census of 1931, the population of the FMS comprised of a Chinese majority (41.5 percent), followed by Malays (34.7 percent), Indians (22.2 percent) while various other ethnic groups made up the remaining 1.6 percent (Loh Fook Seng, Malay Precendence and the Federal Formula in the Federated Malay States, 1909 to 1939, JMBRAS, Vol 45, 1972: p.48).

When the discussions for the independence of Malaya took place, the MCA which represented the interests of the Chinese community in Malaya, agreed for the continuation of Malay special privileges that was already being enjoyed by the Malays under the Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1948 (Straits Times, 28 August 1956).

Even on the issue of making Mandarin a national language at par with Bahasa Melayu, the MCA Central Committee which debated the Alliance memorandum to the Reid Commission put the issue to a vote: 15 votes were against the recommendation that Mandarin be recognised as an official language, 14 voted for, 31 abstained (Straits Times, 28 August 1956).

Reid Commission was required by its terms of reference to “safeguard the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of the other communities” (CO 889/6, C.C. 2000/15, Summary record of Commission’s meeting, 27 August 1956).

The Constitutional Bill was then debated in the England’s House of Commons.  Three amendments to the Bill was sought.  The third proposed amendment pushed by Conservative MP Joan Vickers (Devonport) noted that the 15-year limit for Malay special rights recommended in the Reid Report was omitted from the Bill.

However, the majority felt that any eleventh-hour amendment could upset the political compromises embodied in the Constitution (Commons Debates, 19 July 1957, pp. 1590-1591).  The Secretary of State concluded that any accepting of proposed amendments would result in the reopening of all issues on which agreement had already been reached (Ibid., pp. 1592-1594).  Therefore, all the proposed amendments were rejected and the Federal Constitution of Malaya, as part of the Malayan Independence Bill, was adopted unchanged.

These special rights were then extended to the Bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak through Paragraph 62 of the Malaysia Agreement, 9 July 1963, pages 43 and 44. But this did not come easy.  Many non-Bumiputera groups were opposed to the idea of according the natives of Sarawak with special rights.

A group from the Sarawak United People’s Party led by Ong Kee Hui had a contempt for the backwardness of the natives and had regarded their leaders as men of no consequences.  This prompted the SUPP’s leader in Sibu Jonathan Bangau, an Iban, to resign.

The Ibans, however, told the Cobbold Commission that they were all for Malaysia and some even emphasised on the need for a speedy arrival of better education and development for the Iban community.  In North Borneo, the only negative views were given by the British officials and expatriates as well as the rich (non-Bumiputera) local businessmen.

Both Donald Stephens (Chairman of the Committee of the North Borneo Alliance) and Stephen Kalong Ningkan (Secretary-General of the Sarawak Alliance) both accepted the Inter-Governmental Committee report.  Sarawak Council Negri voted unanimously to adopt the report on 8 March 1963, while the North Borneo Legislative Council unanimously adopted the report on 13 March 1963.

The special rights of the Malays and the Bumiputeras are there to protect their interests so that they do not get swallowed whole in their own land.  The Fijians learnt this the hard way when the Indo-Fijian (Indian descent) minority which numbered less than 40 percent of the population, dominated everything from government to economy, leaving the ethnic Fijians on the sideline.

If the rights of the Malays and the Bumiputeras that was agreed upon by our forefathers are now being questioned, should they now not ask for a better position for themselves? Perhaps a 70-percent equity and quota in everything from now on, or something even better?

(This article was first published on The Mole)

The Malaysian Concord (Part 2) – The National Language

IN part one (The Malaysian concord (Part 1) – the sanctity of Islam), I wrote about HRH The Sultan of Selangor’s displeasure of the challenge by a certain group against the sanctity of Islam, the National Language, the special rights of the Bumiputera, as well as the function and position of the Malay Rulers that are enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

I read the comments on the issue at the online page of a mainstream newspaper.  What I saw was blatant ignorance on the part of the readers. This ignorance, if gone unchecked, will be dangerous to the future of this nation.

Many commentators mentioned that the Reid Commission had recommended for certain special privileges to be reviewed after 15 years, but was never done.  

I need to put this record straight. In many of my writings, I mentioned that those party to the agreement of the independence of Malaya were the British government, the Malay Rulers, and the Alliance party as the government of the day.

Lord William Reid was tasked to form an independent commission to draft the new constitution for a post-independence Malaya.  

The idea to have an independent, non-Malayan constitutional commission came from Tunku Abdul Rahman himself.

The Malay Rulers were for a commission that consist of local politicians, lawyers and other professionals, just as India and Burma (later Myanmar) had. Ghana, Pakistan and Ceylon (later Sri Lanka) opted for a mix of local and foreign constitutional experts.

Tunku felt that it was important to have a non-Malayan independent commission to draft the Malayan post-independence Constitution as it would be able to avoid local prejudices and perform its task with complete impartiality (PH/A/008/4, MCA Files, Memorandum by Tunku Abdul Rahman, 1 March 1955).

This he intimated to Sir Donald Charles MacGillivray, the last British High Commissioner in Malaya, and told the latter before leaving for the January 1956 Independence Conference in London that the commission should consist of legal experts with sufficient knowledge of constitutional developments in the Commonwealth (CO1030/132(3) MacGillivray to A.M. MacKintosh, Head of the Southeast Asia Department of the Colonial Office, 5 January 1956).

So again, I would like to reiterate that the function of the Reid Commission was only to draft the Constitution with input from all those party to the independence agreement, and make recommendations to those parties.  

The Commission itself was never a party to the discussion, let alone of the agreement.

Going back to the issue of the national language, it was in the Alliance’s manifesto for the 1955 federal elections to have a national language to foster a common nationhood, with plans to upgrade the Malay language as the national language.  

As safeguarding the interests and rights of the Malay and Chinese communities being the key features of its manifesto, protection for the languages of the other communities as well as their growth and development was also guaranteed.

The earlier version of the Alliance’s memorandum to the Reid Commission did state a 15-year time frame for the special position of the Malays and Malay as the national language.  

However, in view of the radicals in both Umno and MCA at the time where the former questioned the principle of jus soli while the latter questioned the need for Malay special rights and a national language, an inter-communal constitutional bargain was made and was conveyed to the Reid Commission orally that the time-frame be omitted (PH/A/008/4, Memorandum by Tunku Abdul Rahman, 1 March 1955).

This was the version that was accepted not just by those within the Alliance, but also by the Malay Rulers as well as the British government.

Five years later, this same subject was brought forth to all who would be affected by the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

The Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee chaired by North Borneo’s Donald Stephens in its memorandum stated the it accepted the view that the Federation of Malaysia should have a national language and placed no objection to the adoption of the National Language of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore and Brunei which is also the lingua franca of the region (Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee Memorandum, 3 February 1962: pp. 122).

Even the Cobbold Commission, a Commission of Enquiry set up to gauge the support of the people of North Borneo and Sarawak for the creation of the Federation of Malaysia noted in its report that its Chairman (Lord Cameron Fromanteel Cobbold) felt in view that Malay is the closest to a lingua franca in Borneo than any other language, no derogation from the Federal provision was necessary (Report of the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak, 21 June 1962: pp. 54).

The Inter-Governmental Committee (a committee that consists of the Federation of Malaya, and Great Britain – looking after the interests of its colonies of North Borneo and Sarawak)  reported that Malay should be the language of the Federation of Malaysia, but Article 152 of the proposed Federal Constitution (based on the Federal Constitution of Malaya) be modified in its application to the Borneo states so as to secure that the English language may be used in an official capacity for a period of ten years after Malaysia Day (Malaysia Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee, 1962: pp. 26).

A national language is an important tool for creating “national” consciousness.  

Hindi is the national language of India, as Mandarin, Thai and Bahasa Indonesia are respectively in the China, Thailand and Indonesia.  

It is difficult to understand why, after 61 years, are we still having this argument about what the national language should be.

What kind of national identity are we to have when we cannot even communicate with each other in one common language?

(This article was first published in The Mole)

The Malaysian Concord (Part 1) – The Sanctity of Islam

Islam is the religion of the Federation of Malaysia as enshrined in its Constitution after being agreed upon by all those party to her establishment (Photo credit: Azirull Amin Aripin/Getty Images)

HRH Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah is known to be a private person and rarely voices out.  The only times that he would voice out is when matters pertaining to the Constitution is touched upon, and yesterday was one of those times.

He said that the act of a certain group questioning the sanctity of Islam, the special rights of the Bumiputeras, the national language, and the function and position of the Malay Rulers enshrined in the Federal Constitution need to be immediately addressed and curbed.

I have come across such people, and unfortunately, many are young Malays.  They do not seem to understand that the social contract made between the various races of Malaya prior to 31stAugust, 1957 and Malaysia prior to 9thJuly 1963 are now part of the Federal Constitution.

Nor do they know the parties who signed both agreements for the independence of Malaya, and the formation of Malaysia, and understand why those agreements were made.  I put a partial blame on the education system where we were taught that we were all colonised by Britain when that is not true, except during the Malayan Union period.

Although Islam had been preached in the Malay Archipelago, Indo-China and China as early as the seventh century, it is largely held that Islam arrived in the Malay peninsula in the 12thcentury.  Syariah laws such as the Batu Bersurat of Terengganu, Hukum Kanun Melaka, Undang-Undang 99 Perak became the laws of the land.

In 1908, Richard James Wilkinson, a British colonial administrator who, with the backing of Sultan Idris I, was responsible for the establishment of the Malay College in Kuala Kangsar, and who was also a scholar of Malay and history, wrote on the status of Islamic law in the Malay states:

There can no doubt that Moslem law would have ended up becoming the law of Malaya had not British law stepped in to check it.” (William R. Roff, Patterns of Islamization in Malaysia, 1890s-1990s: Exemplars, Institutions and Vectors, Journal of Islamic Studies Vol. 9, Is. 2 (1998), 210-228, at 211).

This was reinforced by two British judges in the landmark case of Ramah binti Ta’at v Laton binti Malim Sutan 6 FMSLR (1927).

It is due to these facts that the sanctity of Islam was retained in the Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1948, and was introduced into the Federation of Malaya Constitution of 1957.

The English law was only introduced to Pulau Pinang as it was the original British colony.  It was on 25thMarch, 1807 that a Charter of Justice was granted by the Crown establishing a Court of Judicature in Pulau Pinang, with jurisdiction and powers of the Superior Courts in England. This was then introduced to Melaka and Singapore when they became part of the Straits Settlements under British rule.

Only with the arrival of the British residents in the Malay states in the last quarter of the 19thcentury was the English law introduced there in the form of Orders, Regulations and Ordnances, save for the laws and regulations affecting the Malay customs and the administration of Islam.  These laws provided for the administration of justice, the law of contract, sale of goods, bills of exchange, company law, criminal law and procedure, the law of evidence, land law, labour law, and the regulation of many matters of public interest.

The Civil Law Enactment, 1937 (No.3 of 1937, FMS) introduced the whole body of the common law of England and of equity of minor modifications.  It provided always that the common law and rules of equity are “subject to such qualifications as local circumstances render necessary”.  Local laws and custom were made applicable.

Islam was made the religion of the Federation of Malaya.  Although Lord Reid felt it was unnecessary to have such a provision as the Sultans would be the Head of Islam in their states, it was added to the draft of the Federal Constitution at the suggestion of Justice Hakim Halim bin Abdul Hamid of Pakistan, who was a member of the Reid Commission, because he said the suggestion by the Alliance party that represented the people of Malaya to have that proviso added was inoccuous.

Sir Donald Charles MacGillivray personally felt that such a provision would be advantageous because the Yang DiPertuan Agong could at the same time become the head of the faith in the Settlements of Penang and Malacca (CO 1030/524 (10), MacGillivray to Secretary of State, 25 February 1957; See also CO 1030/524 (18), MacGillivray to Secretary of State, 21 March 1957).

This accord was reached between those who were party to the discussion – the Malay Rulers, the British who administered the Rulers’ sovereign states on their behalf, and the multiracial government chosen by the people in 1955 to represent them.

There is even a separation of jurisdiction when it comes to the position of Islam in the Federal Constitution.

The Syariah Law comes under the purview of the respective Rulers, and the Attorney-General of Malaysia, under Article 145(3) does not have the jurisdiction over proceedings before a Syariah court, a native court of a court-martial.

This separation of jurisdiction is also present as provided by Article 121(1A) where both the High Court of Malaya and High Court of Sabah and Sarawak do not have any jurisdiction over Syariah matters.  Therefore, any claim that the Syariah law infringes on the rights of the non-Muslims is fallacious.

The Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee chaired by North Borneo’s (later Sabah) Donald Stephens (later Tun Fuad Stephens) stated in its memorandum dated 3rdSeptember 1962 that the acceptance of Islam as the religion of the to-be-formed Federation of Malaysia would not endanger religious freedom within Malaysia nor will it make the country less secular (Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee Memorandum on Malaysia, 3 Sep 1962, p.p 120).

And that is how Islam became the religion of Malaysia.

(This article was first published by The Mole)

Beautiful Malaysia

kgkota01
Char Kuay in the morning brings people together to the table

Malaysia turned 55 last weekend.  Although the electronic and social media platforms are filled with rancorous exchanges, the general population is nice to each other, no matter the political leaning.

We come from a somewhat mixed family. My father was attended to by an Amahwhen he was little.  His eldest sister married a wonderful Chinese man whose last words were, “Tell the world that I lived and died as a Muslim.” Two Chinese and an Indian were married into my family.

Slightly more than four decades ago I went to a Chinese kindergarten somewhere in Melaka.  It was just a couple of years after 13 May 1969 but the relationship between races then was good, or so it seemed to this little boy then.  Although I cannot recall any of my schoolmates’ name, we played together.  Almost every evening my father would take me to Uncle Ah Boon’s house where I would converse with them in beginner’s Mandarin before stopping for some Putu Piring at the foot of Bukit Peringgit.

I went to the St John’s Primary School on Jalan Bukit Nanas and had great classmates such as Yong Choon Wah, Chow Kah Sung, Michael Foo.  While waiting for the bus to go home, Choon Wah and I and a few others would go up and down the escalators at the neighbouring AIA building where an A&W outlet was once located until the Sikh jaganabbed us and threatened to send us to the police station. Not once did my friends and I see each other, other than as fellow Malaysians.

That jagabecame famous on 4 August 1975 when he was shot beneath the eye by a Japanese Red Army terrorist who had taken 35 people there as hostages.  His name was Sukdave Singh.

My favourite Nasi Lemak from then till now is the Nasi Lemak Tanglin.  I often jogged to where it was located, a small stall in front of a Chinese kopitiam and a plate of Nasi Lemak accompanied by the kopitiam’s glass of Sirap Ais and Lengkung were the highlight of my week, almost every week.

kgkota02
Not Nasi Lemak Tanglin. This was at the kampung kopitiam, downed with a cup of Kopi Cap Rambutan

A few years later when I was at The Malay College, I realised that 80 percent of the teachers there then were Chinese.  Ask any MCKK alumni who went there between 1972 to 2005 and they can tell you that the Additional Mathematics guru then was Mr Tan Gim Hoe.  Every one of his students would remember his famous “Tatapa. Tatapa” (Tak Apa, Tak Apa) as he tries his best to make you understand his lesson.  He even wrote the Additional Mathematics textbook! MCKK was Mr Tan’s first and only posting, and in the 33 years and 10 months that he was there he helped produce brilliant Malay students such as the former Khazanah head Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar.  I used to meet Mr Tan in town every Saturday for Add Maths tuition when I was in Form 4.  While some of the boys would be upstairs at Kuala Kangsar’s famous Yut Loy restaurant for a quick smoke, I would be with my Pau Daging, Add Maths books and Mr Tan.

TanGimHoe
Mr Tan Gim Hoe taught at The Malay College for three decades until his retirement, and nowhere else

Unlike back in the 1970s, we hardly see Malays and Chinese dine together these days.  Not only do we look at each other with contempt, we also now question each other’s rights that are enshrined in the Federal Constitution. I blame the education system – the Arabisation of the National Schools, and the existence of vernacular schools. Children who do not grow up together will never learn about each other.

Just when everything seems bleak, my wife and I made a road trip along the coastal road in Selangor to attend a wedding in Sabak Bernam.  We stopped for breakfast at a nice kopitiam in Kuala Selangor.  For tea, we crossed into lower Perak where we found a kampung sundry shop that doubles as a kopitiam that has a mix of Malay and Indian clientele.

Michael, the second-generation proprietor, spoke to us in lower Perak Malay accent.  He told us that the suppliers of the Nasi Lemak, noodles and kuih are local Malays.  “It is the way of life here. We live in our community where we don’t see each other as Malay, Chinese or Indian,” he stressed. Prosper thy neighbouris his motto.

kgkota03
Pulut Sambal, made by the kampung Malays, sold at this Chinese kopitiam

“Come back tomorrow morning for some Char Kuay,” he said before we left. “I’ll make them fresh for you.”  And we did! Michael and his son CJ served us one of the best Char Kuay ever, complemented by his homemade Seri Kaya.  But it was not just the food and kampung coffee that had us in awe, it was how Michael and his clients enjoy their banter.

It was there and then that I was transported back to the 1970s, where Malaysians eat and drink and joke together, without a hint of any political divide.

And that made it the most beautiful Malaysia Day ever.

Lest We Forget The Alliance

I don’t know what prompted the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) to go it all alone in the recent Balakong by-election.

Perhaps, it did not want to be seen as an Umno lackey as it had always been labelled as. But this was the first time that it had contested under its own party logo since the first general election in 1955.

As we can now see, there is a general lethargy among the masses in respect of politics.

We have had three by-elections since the downfall of the Barisan Nasional government and the turnout during the by-elections have been rather poor.

On the 87th day, the Sungai Kandis by-election saw a drop of 18,476 voters compared to the numbers during the 14th general election.

Umno had initially wanted to contest using its own logo but changed its mind. Under the BN banner, the Barisan Nasional saw an 11.49 percent swing compared to 5.84 percent for Pakatan Harapan.

Umno was helped by Parti Islam Se Malaysia (Pas) although the latter still showed a certain amount of distrust towards the former.

There was very little or no involvement at all by MCA and MIC. The majority was reduced by 5,842 compared to 12,480 on May 9.

In the Seri Setia by-election which was held 22 days after Pakatan Harapan’s failure to fulfil its election manifesto promises, Pas saw a 31.01 percent swing for the party, helped by the fact that BN did not contest but assisted Pas during the campaign period.

Pakatan saw a swing 8.02 percent votes against it. The majority was reduced to 4,027 compared to 19,372 during the 14th general election.

MCA, which contested under its own banner against Pakatan, saw a swing of 4.11 percent for it compared to Pakatan’s 7.46 percent.

This means that even with a very much reduced turnout (49.16 percent of the total turnout during the 14th general election), MCA had failed to make a significant impact on the voters.

The philosopher, Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás or George Santayana, once said that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.  In this case, the MCA had forgotten its own history.

Before the independence of Malaya, both the MCA and Umno were political enemies.  There was already a feeling of discontent among the Malays in the pre-war period over their poor economic position vis-à-vis the Chinese and Indians.

Professors T.H Silcock and Ungku Aziz noted in 1950 that the Malay peasants and fishermen were dependent on Chinese middlemen while Malays worked as messengers in offices where Chinese and Indians were clerks.

However, Umno knew that in order to achieve independence, a long-lasting relationship with other races needed to be forged. It was during the Umno general assembly of 1949 that Onn Jaafar said,

“It is absolutely important for the Malays to obtain closer ties with the other people in this country.  It is time for us to take the wider view than the kampung view. I ask of you, which will you choose, peace or chaos, friendship or enmity?”

Although the grassroots of Umno was against Onn Jaafar’s idea that led him to leave the party two years later, it opened up a door for both the MCA Selangor Branch and Kuala Lumpur Umno branch to work together in the Federation’s first local elections.

Both Umno and MCA competed against each other and against other parties in Pulau Pinang in December 1951.

MCA had only managed to obtain the support from the Chinese while Umno the Malays. It was Datuk Yahya Abdul Razak from the Kuala Lumpur Umno branch who approached Selangor MCA branch chairman, H.S Lee to discuss the possibility of a cooperation of the two parties.

In January 1952, both branches of the two parties announced that they were jointly-contesting the Kuala Lumpur elections.

The Umno-MCA alliance won 10,340 votes while Onn Jaafar’s IMP won 6,641 votes. MIC joined the alliance in 1954.

This alliance went on to win all but one seats in the 1955 general election.  The rest is history.

In the past, MCA relied on the English-speaking, urban-dwelling portion of the Chinese community who make up about 10 percent of the seven million Chinese people in this country.

That 10 percent is now drowned in smugness and disconnect as they now have the DAP to represent them in the Pakatan Harapan government despite how telling it is that the Pakatan Harapan government is not really interested in reforms.

MCA now needs to go down to the rural ground to try and win the voters back.

There is no way that the MCA can do this all alone by itself. It still needs Umno, MIC and even Pas to help it make a breakthrough.

This can only come about with a rebranding of the approach, and the fight for a common good, with the protection for all races remaining intact.

(This article first appeared on The Mole)

Beban Politik Harus Disingkirkan

darth madey

Satu minggu yang cukup menarik. Pembubaran parlimen yang begitu dinantikan telahpun berlaku. Pengumuman oleh SPR mengenai hari pengundian yang jatuh pada hari Rabu telah menyebabkan orang ramai tidak berpuas hati. Ini adalah kali ke-6 sejak kemerdekaan, yang menyaksikan pembuangan undi dibuat pada hari bekerja. 6 dari keseluruhan 14 pilihanraya umum Malaysia. Dan separuh darinya terjadi ketika Mahathir mentadbir Malaysia.

Ramai yang melenting kerana mereka hampir mustahil dapat pulang ke kawasan pengundian dan kembali ke tempat bermastautin selepas mengundi. Mereka kononnya dinafikan keadilan tanpa menyedari mereka sendiri berlaku tidak adil kepada penduduk kampung halaman mereka yang perlu mengadap wakil rakyat yang diundi mereka selama 5 tahun yang mungkin lebih teruk dari wakil rakyat sebelumnya.

Jika tidak mahu pulang mengundi, tukarlah alamat mengundi ke alamat bermastautin.

Lebih menarik, baru-baru di dalam satu penulisan di laman Facebook, DYAM Tunku Mahkota Johor telah menyeru kepada rakyat Johor untuk menolak parti atau pakatan yang akan memberikan kemenangan kepada Mahathir. Rakyat yang membaca terus menghamburkan kemarahan. Sebelum ini, apabila Tunku Mahkota Johor atau lebih dikenali sebagai TMJ mengkritik kerajaan, rakyat, termasuk mereka yang tidak mempercayai institusi beraja dengan akan pantas menulis ‘Daulat Tuanku’. Kini khalayak yang sama menyerang TMJ.

Saya kurang gemar  sekiranya seorang ahli kerabat diraja mengeluarkan kenyataan sedemikian kerana saya percaya, sungguhpun mereka mempunyai pandangan tersendiri, mereka perlu kekal tidak berpihak. Namun, ungkapan terkenal dari Walter Bagehot bermain di fikiran saya:

Raja mempunyai 3 hak: Hak untuk berbincang, hak untuk memberi galakan dan hak untuk memberi amaran

Ini diakui oleh Mark R Gillen dari Fakulti Undang-Undang, University of Victoria (Gillen 1994:7) Almarhum Sultan Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah yang juga mantan Ketua Hakim Negara pernah bertitah:

Adalah menjadi satu kesilapan jika peranan seorang Sultan, seperti seorang Presiden, adalah terhad sepertimana yang telah diperuntukan oleh Perlembagaan. Peranan seorang Sultan jauh melangkaui peruntukan Perlembagaan” (Azlan Shah 1986:89).

Maka, adalah hak TMJ untuk memberikan amaran kepada rakyat Johor mengenai apa yang baginda fikirkan sebagai berbahaya untuk rakyat baginda, dan demi perpaduan negeri baginda.

Jika Barisan ingin mengambil kesempatan untuk isu ini, saya fikir waktunya tidak kena kerana ia dilakukan terlalu awal, ketika negara baru hendak ‘memanaskan badan’ untuk menghadapi pilihanraya. Anda kini dapat melihat mesej-mesej yang disebarkan di dalam WhatsApp yang bukan sahaja menyerang Sultan Johor sekarang, tetapi juga menyerang Sultan sebelum ini, iaitu nenda kepada TMJ. Mahathir juga cepat mengeluarkan kenyataan, dengan berkata tulisan Pakatan itu hanya memberikan keuntungan kepada Pakatan.

Mungkin itu yang beliau fikirkan.

Perseteruan Mahathir dan Istana Johor berlaku dari sebelum Syed Saddiq dilahirkan lagi. Dua tahun selepas menjadi Perdana Menteri, Mahathir cuba mendapatkan persetujuan Almarhum Sultan Perak, Sultan Idris Shah untuk naik takhta sebagai Yang Dipertuan Agong ke-8 kerana Sultan Pahang bakal menamatkan tempoh perkhidmatan pada tahun 1984. Ianya berjalan serentak dengan kempen memburukan Sultan Johor, dalam cubaan untuk mendapatkan sokongan ramai.

Hubungan Mahathir dan Sultan Johor begitu teruk sehingga beberapa pegawai kanan tentera merancang satu rampasan kuasa pada tahun 1983. Panglima Tentera Darat ketika itu, Jeneral Tan Sri Dato’ Zain Hashim, seorang pegawai tentera yang amat cemerlang, terpaksa bersara pada usia yang masih muda, iaitu 52 tahun, pada Januari 1984 dan digantikan oleh Jeneral Tan Sri Dato’ Mohd Ghazali Bin Haji Che Mat. Jeneral Ghazali hanya berkhidmat sebagai PTD selama setahun sebelum dilantik sebagai Panglima Angkatan Tentera. Jeneral Ghazali telah diganti oleh Jeneral Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Mohamed Hashim Mohd Ali sebagai Panglima Tentera Darat, adik ipar Mahathir. Tentera Darat kini diperintah oleh seseorang yang setia dengan Mahathir. Jeneral Hashim kemudian menjawat jawatan Panglima Angkatan Tentera. Maka, berakhirlah segala ketidak-setiaan Angkatan Tentera Malaysia terhadap Mahathir.

Saya mengetahui butiran rancangan rampasan kuasa tersebut tetapi diminta untuk merahsiakannya.

Tidak, ini tidak menunjukkan Tentera hanya perlu setia kepada Raja-Raja Melayu, sebaliknya tentera juga perlu setia kepada kerajaan Yang Dipertuan Agong kerana menurut Artikel 39 Perlembagaan Persekutuan menteri kabinet adalah mewakili Yang Dipertuan Agong dan diberikan kuasa eksekutif untuk mentadbir negara bagi pihak Yang Dipertuan Agong. Maka, kesetian perlu diberikan oleh Angkatan Tentera Malaysia untuk Perdana Menteri dan kabinet beliau.

Segala perbuatan dan cubaan Mahathir keatas keluarga diraja Johor telah ditulis TMJ. Bukan rahsia lagi yang Mahathir begitu bencikan keluarga diraja kerana sejak zaman Perang Dunia Kedua lagi beliau telah bertelagah dengan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Perdana Menteri Pertama Malaysia dan kerabat diraja Kedah. Baru-baru ini, Mahathir telah menyerang projek Forest City dengan cuba menakutkan penduduk tempatan dengan kebanjiran warga China dan menyerang etnik Bugis, iaitu keturunan Najib dan dua orang Sultan, iaitu Johor dan Selangor dengan berkata ‘Lanun Bugis patut balik ke tanah asal mereka’.

Sultan Johor mengecam Mahathir kerana memainkan sentimen perkauman manakala Sultan Selangor mengecam komen Bugis Mahathir.

Mahathir masih tidak memohon kemaafan atas kedua-dua insiden itu.

Beliau adalah seorang yang pemarah dan akan membakar seluruh negara ini dengan kemarahan beliau” titah Sultan Selangor di dalam satu kenyataan yang dikatakan turut dipersetujui oleh Majlis Raja-Raja.

Apabila ditanya oleh media mengenai titah Sultan Selangor itu, Mahathir menjawab “Ya, saya memang pemarah dan anda sendiri boleh lihat betapa marahnya saya. Saya akan bakar anda dan akan terus membakar apa sahaja.”

Ya, Mahathir akan membakar apa sahaja asalkan beliau mendapat apa yang beliau hajati. Beliau tidak peduli sekiranya negara ini hancur. Ini adalah kerana beliau kian kesuntukan masa.

Sebelum bersara 15 tahun lepas, beliau mahukan seorang Perdana Menteri yang mendengar cakap dan yang akan melindungi beliau dan keluarga beliau dari sebarang siasatan, walaupun selepas beliau tiada lagi. Apabila Pak Lah enggan, beliau gulingkan Pak Lah. Kemudian datang Najib Razak yang mempunyai idea sendiri bagaimana negara ini perlu ditadbir dan dijadikan lebih baik. Mahathir, yang tidak biasa dengan orang-orang yang tidak mengikut kemahuan beliau, cuba menggulingkan Najib. Ianya merupakan serangan dari pelbagai arah, yang menguatkan lagi serangan sedia ada dari pembangkang.

Beliau berpakat dengan Muhyiddin dan Shafie. Beliau tahu bahawa beliau tidak boleh bergantung harap dengan Zahid Hamidi kerana beliau pernah memenjarakan Zahid di bawah ISA. Kesetiaan Hishammuddin terhadap sepupunya pula tidak boleh dipersoalkan. Beliau menekan kepimpinan UMNO dengan harapan Najib akan disingkirkan dan Muhyiddin akan dilantik sebagai Perdana Menteri lalu menjamin keselamatan keluarga beliau.

Malangnya rancangan itu gagal. Najib kembali teguh dan kini aktif membalas serangan. Muhyiddin dan Shafie dipecat dari kerajaan dan parti. Mahathir dan keluarganya kini berdepan dengan kemungkinan terpaksa menghadapi siasatan ke atas salahguna kuasa untuk mendapatkan kekayaan dan projek-projek tanpa tender terbuka.

Sebab inilah beliau nekad untuk kembali berkuasa sebagai Perdana Menteri – supaya beliau boleh jamin akan dapat melindungi keluarga beliau dari disiasat oleh pihak berkuasa.

Jika difikirkan, kenapa perlunya seorang ‘ yang berprinsip’ melanggar kesemua prinsip  dan bekerjasama dengan musuh ketatnya, yang diketahui ingin memusnahkan budaya dan adat istiadat orang melayu dan mungkin juga, institusi beraja?

Mantan-mantan pegawai tinggi polis dan tentera pasti ingat di dalam satu sesi golf di mana Almarhum Sultan Iskandar berkata Malaysia tidak memerlukan sistem Presiden dan mesti menyingkirkan ‘beban politik’.

Kita mungkin tertanya apa yang dimaksudkan oleh Almarhum tteapi saya rasa saya tidak mempunyai sebarang masalah mengenalpasti siapa yang dimaksudkan oleh Almarhum.

Namun, satu perkara yang pasti, Mahathir lebih rela untuk memohon maaf kepada Ambiga dan DAP kerana menggunakan perkatan ‘keling‘ daripada memohon ampun kepada Raja-Raja Melayu.

Lihatlah sendiri di mana kedudukan Raja-Raja Melayu berbanding Ambiga dan DAP di mata Mahathir.

Inikah sifat seseorang yang boleh memelihara kedudukan agama Islam dan keistimewaan Bumiputera dan orang Melayu di Malaysia?

Berhati-hatilah bila membuang undi kelak.