Lighting The Wrong Path

Alwi_Jantan
Tan Sri Alwi Jantan

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a moderate.  Moderation is what is preached in Islam.  Moderation is what seems to be eroding by the day not just in Islam, but in other religions and cuts across the racial board as well.  And this applies to every single country there is on the face of this Earth.  And to have a group of people advocating moderation is a more-than-welcome effort in this young-but-amnesiac country that seems to have lost all institutional memory of the events that had brought about the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

Reading the The Star’s interview with Tan Sri Alwi Jantan (Torchbearers for founding fathers – Sunday, 4th September 2016) I cannot help but agree to some of his points, but at the same time feel as if there is some form of misguidance, or misinterpretation of the Federal Constitution, and a deliberate misleading on the respected Tan Sri’s part.

I agree that rather than focusing on petty issues such as whether or not the Langkawi statue is haram, the religious councils as well as JAKIM should focus more on the development of correct as well as balanced knowledge on Islamic subjects such as TauhidFardhus Ain and Kifayah.  This is important to counter the influence of deviationists especially that of the Da’esh.  However, religious as well as racial extremism is not confined to Islam alone.  In the name of pluralism as advocated by the G25, there should only be single-stream schools.  Children who do not grow up together will grow up apart. We can never talk about unity and understanding if we do not understand each other.  Preserving the mother-tongue can be done after formal classes are over and this can be done at the school itself, perhaps after lunch. So could the Islamic religious classes. In the latter category, this would ensure that correct teachings are being imparted to the children rather than by private religious schools whose curriculum are not being monitored effectively by the religious councils. Also that way working parents do not need to worry about the whereabouts of their children and can pick them up at school after work, or a similar arrangement could be made.

In a plural society such as ours, the need for our children to grow up together for the sake of unity is paramount. Sending children to separate schools based on mother tongue rather than a common national language is against the spirit of the Constitution. When the Constitution was being drafted for it to be in operation by Merdeka Day 1957, the Reid Commission adopted the Alliance’s (UMNO, MCA and MIC) proposal to establish Malay as the official language of the Federation. However, there were differences on how to go about with this.  Ng Ek Teong, the MCA representative submitted that English should be allowed to be used for official purposes for a minimum of 10 years. MIC was in support of this.  Both MCA and MIC also proposed for Mandarin and Tamil be allowed to be used in the legislatures for a minimum period of 10 years.  UMNO however proposed that English be allowed to be used for a maximum period of ten years after independence. Ng Ek Tong told the Commission that this would only serve as a temporary measure (Colonial Office CO 889/6, Minutes of Alliance hearing before the Reid Commission, 27 September 1956, pp 290-294).  Tunku Abdul Rahman however said:

“At the end of 10 years, the general trend will be that people will still demand for it and the people who propose it now are not sure that they would be there to guarantee it. It is bound to cause a lot of debate later on.” (Ibid.)

Even Lord William Reid himself was not in favour of the proposal by MCA and MIC saying that it would cause practical difficulties (Ibid/Making of the Malayan Constitution, Joseph M Fernando, pp 128-129).  It was for this reason that the Tunku promoted the Rumi script for the Malay language at the expense of the Jawi script to enable the non-Malays to learn the national language rapidly (Tunku Abdul Rahman (1984), op. cit., pp. 112-114).  This has been enshrined in Article 152 of the Federal Constitution as well as in the National Language Act, 1963/1967.

The reality of it now is that the migrant workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar are more able to grasp the Malay language than many of our own Identity Card-wielding citizens.  Mind you, they also stood still at Dataran Merdeka while the NegaraKu was being played. Our own citizens refuse to stand up when the NegaraKu was being played in the cinemas, extinguishing the very torch of our founding fathers.

The Constitution is secular only up to a certain point. The Reid Commission, commissioned by both Her Majesty The Queen of England and the Malay Rulers had initially omitted a proposal by the Malay Rulers to have Islam as the religion of the Federation.  Reid saw it fit that matters of religion be handled only by the Ruler of the respective States, and that the special position of the Malays be reviewed after 15 years.

When the report was published, the strongest objections came from the man revered by Malaysians now as the father of multiracialism – Dato Onn Jaafar, who as the leader of Parti Negara said that the Malays had been let down.  PAS claimed that the Malay interests had been cast aside (von Vorys (1975), op. cit., p.132). Hence, the Tunku later submitted that Islam be made the religion of the Federation with two provisos added: first that it would not affect the position of the Rulers as head of religion in their respective States; second, the practice and propagation of other religions to the non-Malays in the Federation would be assured under the Constitution (UMNO/SUA 154/56, Minutes of Alliance ad-hoc political sub-committee meeting, 2 April 1957).

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).

Fast forward to the present, Article 3 of the Federal Constitution has clearly mentioned Islam as the religion of the Federation with the Rulers being the Head of religion in their respetive States, while the Yang DiPertuan Agong becomes the Head of religion in the States of Pulau Pinang, Melaka, Sabah and Sarawak, as well as in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya.  It is not an official religion but the religion of the Federation.  The provisos added to safeguard the practice and propagation of other religions are now enshrined in Article 11 with limits to propagate given in Clause 4 of the said Article, to safeguard and honour the position of Islam as the religion of the Federation.

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 jurisdition 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, the respected Tan Sri should be aware that, borrowing the words of Sir Stamford Raffles in a 1815 letter to his cousin mentioned how “Religion and laws are so united” in Muslim dominated areas that the introduction of Christian beliefs will bring about “much mischief, much bitterness of heart and contention”. (Seademon, A Case For God, 1 Jan 2013) .

Even Act 355, the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, 1965 (last revised in 1988)  states the following:

1. (1) This Act may be cited as the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction), 1965.

1. (2) This Act shall apply to all the States of Peninsular Malaysia.

2. The Syariah Courts duly constituted under any law in a State and invested with jurisdiction over persons professing the religion of Islam and in respect of any of the matters enumerated in List II of the State List of the Ninth Schedule to the Federal Constitution are hereby conferred jurisdiction in respect of offences against precepts of the religion of Islam by persons professing that religion which may be prescribed under any written law:

Provided that such jurisdiction shall not be exercised in respect of any offence punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding three years or with any fine exceeding five thousand ringgit or with whipping exceeding six strokes or with any combination thereof.

The Act, clearly says that it first and foremost, applies to all States of the Peninsular Malaysia. It is not applicable to where the Yang DiPertuan Agong is the Head of religion ie. the Federal Territories, Sabah and Sarawak.  Second, it applies only to Muslims and any matters in List II of the State List of the Ninth Schedule to the Federal Constitution. Third, it cannot propose any punishment that prescribes any jail term exceeding three years, or with any fine exceeding five thousand ringgit, or with whipping exceeding six strokes or with any combination thereof.

Therefore, there is no question of introducing stoning to death, amputation of limbs etc.  Anything above those limitations will be referred to the Criminal Courts.

So, Tan Sri, care to explain how are secularism and pluralism being attacked with examples of provisos of the Federal Constitution or any laws made under it?

Finally, let me quote the interview given by the respected Tan Sri to The Star:

G25 has also expanded its scope to include good governance and tackling corruption. As not only the former head of the PSD but also former secretary-general in the Local Government and Federal Territory Ministry, Health Ministry and Agriculture Ministry, Alwi has focused on good governance, which he calls the precondition for a constitutional democracy: “Those in power must be made accountable for their actions and conduct.”

During his time, civil servants were able to do their jobs without fear or favour, he recalls. “The division of responsibilities between the politicians and civil servants was fairly clear cut.”

But over time good governance has been eroded at an alarming rate, he says.

“There are hardly any more checks and balances.”

What either the good Tan Sri or The Star have also failed to mention is the fact that for more than three years, Tan Sri Alwi Jantan was the Deputy Secretary-General for the Prime Minister’s Department under the founder of Parti Pribumi, Mahathir Mohamad.  Mahathir’s now good friend, Lim Kit Siang, wrote not so long ago, on Thursday, 12 February 2015 at 12.57pm:

“This shows the rot in Malaysia, but it is a rot which was started during Mahathir’s 22-year premiership, and by Mahathir himself!

Today, Mahathir is obsessed with the toppling of Najib as Prime Minister, but this is not because he wanted to stop the rot in Malaysia, to restore the independence and integrity of the judiciary and a just rule of law; to end the subversion of the independence and professionalism of national institutions whether the civil service, the police, the elections commission or anti-corruption agency; eradicate rampant corruption; restore ethics and honesty in public life; re-establish a good education system or restore Malaysia’s economic competitiveness.

Mahathir wants Najib out as the Prime Minister for Malaysia, not to stop the rot which was started by him during his premiership, but for an agenda personal to himself.

This is the rot of Hamlet in Malaysia.”

I’m surprised the good Tan Sri had made no mention whatsoever of this episode.  And he was a civil servant by definition, under the tutelage of the Pribumi person himself and remained in public service until 16 April 1990, thirteen years before Mahathir steped down.

So, Tan Sri, it is good that you want to become the torchbearer of the founding fathers of this blessed nation. However, please ensure that you are on the right path first before you decide to light that torch and guide others.

The Bittersweet Alliance – Part 1

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.  The recurrence of history is part of life’s cycle, but always in different forms.  Those who do not remember how certain historical lows were handled are bound to make even bigger mistakes.

 

Recently, there was a furor following the statement made by UMNO’s Ismail Sabri , the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Minister, asking consumers to boycott greedy Chinese businesses.  While it is normal to hear the communal-party-disguised-as-a-non-communal-party DAP lashing out at Ismail Sabri, the call by MCA’s Youth Chief, Chong Sin Woon, for the sacking of Ismail Sabri did not go down well with UMNO and 92 Divisions of the latter rallied behind Ismail asking for Sin Woon to be sacked instead.

 

While I refuse to indulge in a debate over what was said by Ismail Sabri, there is a need for consumers to boycott profiteering businesses who whine about high cost of fuel and pressured the government to allow them to increase the price of their services, but refused to lower prices when the price of fuel has gone down by half.  What I am more interested in is the bittersweet alliance between UMNO and MCA, and how history is repeating itself.

 

While the movement for the independence of Malaya had started decades before, there was no cohesion between races. In 1946 when the Malayan Union was formed, the republican-in-nature Partai Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (PKMM) and the non-Malay Malayan Democratic Union (MDU) were quick to support the formation.  The PKMM, a spin-off from the Batavia-leaning KMM of Ibrahim Yaacob, was all for a Malaya not ruled by the Malay Rulers, while the MDU liked the idea of automatic citizenship (read more in Seademon’s The Road To Merdeka: Persekutuan Tanah China ) for the immigrants. On 1st March 1946, more than 40 Malay organisations met up and 41 decided to form the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to champion the Malay rights.  The Malays were then a minority in his own land, poor, sidelined from economic development, health care and formal education.  With the help and encouragement of the then-British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney, the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) was formed on the 27th February, 1949. Gurney aimed at winning the allegiance of the Chinese community away from the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) (Colonial Office Record 537/773(1) Memorandum by Henry Gurney, 28th January, 1949).

 

There was apprehension and distrust between the Malays and Chinese.  The alienation of the Malays by Chinese mining tycoons and rubber estate owners, followed by the preference of the Japanese of the Malays over the immigrant Chinese, and this in turn followed by retribution against the Malays by Chinese sympathizers of the CPM after the Japanese surrender have had contributed enormously to this animosity between the two.

 

It was since 1950 that Henry Gurney had wanted to introduce some form of democracy to Malaya through elections to satisfy the public’s hunger for democracy versus the communist’s way of winning self-government.  Alas, he was only a High Commissioner and still had to go through the true rulers of the Federation of Malaya – The Malay Rulers.  So, during the 10th Malay Rulers Meeting on the 22nd and 23rd February, 1950, Gurney presented his recommendation, only to be met with reluctance of the Malay Rulers.  In the minutes of meeting, the Sultan of Kedah stated his reservation:

 

The most important prerequisite for democracy is education. Without enlightened public opinion a democratic system of Government will be liable to unsteadiness or even confusion and chaos. One danger is that it may be transformed into a single party government through a few skilled electioneers working among the apathetic population and this will work towards dictatorship.” (Colonial Office Records 537/6025(1))

 

The Malays, as mentioned above, were left behind educationally and may not know what is best for them.  For the same reason the PKMM and MDU were in full support of the Malayan Union four years prior to this event.  And whatever the outcome, the Malays would have ended up the biggest losers if no one champions their rights. Noted William L Holland in “Nationalism in Malaya” (WL Holland, 1953):

 

“There was already Malay discontent in the pre-war period over the poor economic position vis-a-vis the Chinese and Indians. Malay peasants and fishermen, noted S.H Silcock and Ungku Aziz, were dependent on Chinese middlemen while Malays worked as messengers in offices where Chinese and Indians were clerks.”

 

The phrases made bold above by me, still holds true today and became the basis of Ismail Sabri’s main grouse against profiteering businessmen.

 

Gurney had to bring about some form of democratic self-rule that would benefit all races.  Separately he discussed on numerous occasions with both MCA and Dato’ Onn and impressed upon them that self-rule would only happen if there is a closer relations between the communities (The Making of the Malayan Constitution, Joseph M Fernando, 2002, Page 15).  Gurney was all for the promotion of Sino-Malay talks to tackle long-term problems.  Gurney minuted the following:

 

“The outstanding issues at that stage were citizenship and the economic backwardness of the Malays.  The Chinese leaders sought a more liberalised citizenship than those contained in the 1948 Federation of Malaya Agreement.  Onn meanwhile , had approached the Colonial Office to secure financial assistance for the Malays.” (Colonial Office Records 537/773(1))

 

Onn Jaafar, however, was more open towards a better relationship between the Malays and other races if UMNO was to achieve the long-term ambition of self-governing the nation.  In the UMNO annual general meeting in Arau, Perlis, on the 28th May 1949, he said in his speech:

 

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 view wider than the kampung view.  I ask of you, which will you choose, peace or chaos, friendship or enmity?” (Straits Times, 29th May, 1949)

 

It was at this meeting that UMNO had agreed to accept non-Malays as associate members.  Two years later, in June 1951, Onn went a step further by proposing that UMNO should open its doors to the non-Malays, and that UMNO be renamed the “United Malayan National Organisation.”  While the top echelon of the party was supportive of this idea, the grassroot felt it was too radical.  The bitterness resulting from the years of resentment and occasional interracial violence were too new for them to accept the non-Malays into their political fold.  As a result, Onn left UMNO to form a new party called the Independence of Malaya Party (IMP) despite Gurney’s insistence that the former should remain in UMNO.  Onn gambled that UMNO would fall apart and would rally behind him.  Instead, UMNO rallied behind its new leader, Tunku Abdul Rahman, who sought to retain and strengthen UMNO’s communal organisational structure.  The Tunku also threatened to expel from UMNO any member that joins or had joined the IMP (Straits Times, 18th September, 1951).

 

The MCA meanwhile remained a loose association of both “neutral” Chinese and the hardcore sympathizers of the CPM.  Gurney had felt that the MCA had not gained much support from the Chinese community and the CPM sympathizers especially to help bring about a speedy end of the First Emergency.  The Perak MCA Chairman, Leong Yew Koh, wrote to Cheng Lock on 1st June, 1950:

 

“Although the Perak MCA membership is 40,000 strong, the branch is a mere basin of loose sand.” (Tan Cheng Lock Papers, ISEAS Singapore, Folio IX)

 

Cheng Lock was quick to suggest that the MCA should become more political in order to better represent the Chinese:

 

“The MCA should not exist only for the limited, though vital, purpose of the meeting the emergency.  It is a living institution which should consolidate itself on a strong and broad democratic foundation, in order that it may be ready to play a part in Malaya of the future as well as the present.” (Colonial Office Records 1022/176)

 

Thus, the stage is set for two political giants to go against each other for political power, after which we will see whether it was the Tunku or not who played the pivotal role in making the alliance between UMNO and MCA come true.

 

Stay tuned.