Malaysia: HINDRAF calls for nationwide prayers

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Nov 16 18:09:52 UTC 2008

HINDRAF calls for nationwide prayers to be organised to commemorate
the 1st year anniversary of UNITY amongst the marginalized, oppressed
and suppressed Malaysian Indians over the last 51 years.

November 25th is a day no ethnic Indian in Malaysia would ever choose
to forget for it reminds them of the struggle of these marginalized
community against the state which came hard to suppress the legitimate
voice of democracy. No Indian would forget the fact that a peaceful
gathering correctly exercised under Article 10 of the Malaysian
Federal Constitution and Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights 1948 was met by state violence and aggression. We call
upon all Malaysian Indians to organise prayers in their respective
Temples and light up 18 Ghee Lamps each to signify the 18 demands
submitted to the Prime Minister on 12th August 2007.

The purpose of this exercise is lessen the evils that is partaking in
the current scenario in Malaysia and gain faith and confidence from
the almighty to overcome these evils and move forward for the goodwill
of the Malaysian people in fairness to all irrespective of their
color, race, religion, creed or following. The burning of these lamps
is similar to a candlelight practiced throughout ancient time and it
is not sacrilegious to anyone as it seeks the omnipresent power of the
almighty to strengthen and boost our faith and confidence for the
spiritual and moral path that we have embarked and overcome turbulence
time to lessen the evils that are prevailing for the Malaysian

Kindly take note that mass prayers would be organised at the   Batu
Caves Temple for the southern region and Butterworth Mariamman Temple
for the Northern Region on the 25th November 2008. We invite all those
who are unable to attend these temples to organise prayers at their
respective temples.

Though HINDRAF has been unlawfully declared illegal there is nothing
the UMNO regime could do to stop us from organising prayers. We
welcome our fellow brothers from other faiths to organise similar
prayers at their respective places of worships and seek the divine
blessings for the continued struggle and success in our endeavour.

Let us unite on this day and show our oppressors we are UNITED

We invite all our supporters to send SMS's to their friends to attend
these prayers and be united on this day by wearing orange clothing as
a mark of our unity.

P.Waytha Moorthy
14th November 2008

 SOCIAL CONTRACT: Going to roots of the bargain
PUBLIC debate on the "social contract", ketuanan Melayu and Article
153 of the Federal Constitution has been heating up, and there are
also calls for the "social contract" to be taught to young Malaysians.
How do we do this when most Malaysians, including politicians, don't
know how far back the inter-ethnic bargain went? Or what the final
"bargain" was? Or whether the contract is carved in stone?

History shows the "terms" of the "social contract" have changed
through political means and by the judiciary on cases related to Islam
and conversion.

University of New South Wales Emeritus Prof of Sociology and
Anthropology Clive S. Kessler, in the book Sharing the Nation, points
out that the role of the Malay language has shrunk from what was
intended in 1957.

But then, Malay special privileges have expanded beyond what was
agreed; and there has been a slow overturning on the question of the
secular nature of the state and status of Islam as the official and
emblematic religion of Malaysia.

Sunday Star speaks to senior Malaysian political scientist Dr Mavis C.
Puthucheary, International Islamic University law professor Dr Abdul
Aziz Bari and senior constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas for their take
on the history of the inter-ethnic bargain and what it means.

THE first effort at inter-ethnic bargaining was undertaken by
left-wing leaders, says political scientist Dr Mavis C. Puthucheary.

The coalition of Malay left-wing parties called Pusat Tenaga Rakyat
(Putera) and non-Malay parties called All-Malaya Council for Joint
Action (AMCJA) drafted the People's Constitution in 1947.

Dr Puthucheary says that the People's Constitution incorporated
agreements on nationality and citizenship, a system of parliamentary
democracy and that the new state be symbolically identified with Malay

"But this was rejected by the British and Malay traditional elite as
well as Umno. For Umno leaders, the object of the Malay struggle was
to uphold Malay primacy."

Bowing to Malay pressure, she says, the British withdrew the Malayan
Union which had attempted to lay the foundations for citizenship.

"Under the ensuing Federation of Malaya Agreement, citizenship for
non-Malays was very restricted."

Of greater significance, she notes, was the fact that the agreement
included a clause charging the colonial government with the
responsibility to safeguard "the special position of the Malays and
the legitimate interests of the other communities."

The question still being asked is whether the moral weight of a
"special position" is greater than or equal to that of "legitimate

With the many advantages in their favour, she says Umno had no
incentive to negotiate terms of co-operation with non-Malay leaders.

"It was only in the municipal elections that it was forced to seek out
MCA because the Chinese and Indians were the majority in urban areas."

And so an informal pact was institutionalised with the formation of
the Alliance in 1953, says Dr Puthucheary, who wrote on the "social
contract" in Sharing the Nation.

"The first public document incorporating some points of agreement was
the 1955 Alliance Election Manifesto."

Since MCA had agreed to the 1955 elections before the issue of
citizenship was resolved, she says, the manifesto stated that that
question would be for the independent commission set up to draft the

The commission chose to go with the Alliance's recommendations on the
matter but it was concerned about the potential conflict of group
rights over individual rights.

As such, it recommended that privileges for the economically
disadvantaged Malays be reviewed regularly and withdrawn if no longer
necessary. But the Alliance government rejected this, she adds.

Hence, Article 153 in the Federal Constitution, which safeguards the
special position of the Malays, also qualifies the principle of

She stresses that Article 153 did not imply that Malay political
dominance was recognised by the Umno's non-Malay partners.

Re-engineering the inter-ethnic bargain
In the mid-1960s, Opposition parties won several local government elections.

Dr Puthucheary says this challenged the Alliance's claim that the only
way non-Malay opposition parties could participate in government was
through its own unequal power-sharing formula.

The 1969 riots gave the opportunity to re-engineer the terms of the
inter-ethnic bargain, she adds.

"Most non-Malays regarded the New Economic Policy as going beyond the
original scope of privileges to Malays but they accepted it for the
same reason they had accepted the earlier privileges – to close the
economic gap."

While no one has a real definition for "social contract", she says, it
has been used to refer to the Alliance's inter-ethnic bargain and
Article 153.

She feels that linking the "social contract" to Article 153 is
dangerous because it allows those in power to define it according to
their preference.

She notes the term "social contract" was first used in 1986, by Tan
Sri Abdullah Ahmad – then Umno MP for Kok Lanas – to argue the NEP was
part of the "social contract" and so a "done deal".

Having declared the bargain to mean that ketuanan Melayu was part of
the founding constitutional bargain, Dr Puthucheary says, he then
warned non-Malays that any attempt to break it would not be tolerated.

However, the recently published biography of Tun Dr Ismail Abdul
Rahman confirms that the "special position" of the Malays in the
Constitution was only "a temporary measure".

Dr Puthucheary says the "social contract" idea has become a useful
political tool, with both Malays and non-Malays invoking it to advance
their own notions of the bargain.

Instead of making calls to uphold the "Malaysian social contract" as
binding, she says it would be more useful to understand the term's
evolving meaning and use in Malaysian history and politics.

The proof of a change in the people's understanding in wanting to move
away from race-centric policies and to a needs-focused administration
was in the last general election.

As new allies in the municipal elections in the 1950s, Umno and MCA
beat ideologically based non-communal parties such as the Radical
Party and the Labour Party of Penang and the Independence Party of
Malaya. This time, they suffered huge losses to the almost-non-racial
coalition of PKR-DAP-PAS.

SENIOR constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas understands "social
contract" to be a social compact or bargain reached by the three
communities under the watchful eye of the British.

He agrees "social contract" is not a precise term, with no acceptable
or agreed definition.

He sees it as a quid pro quo: "In exchange for a place under the
Malayan sun with full citizenship and a right to use their language
and observe their religion, non-Malays had to concede special
privileges to the Malays to help the latter climb the economic

He says this did not relegate non-Malays to second class citizens.

"Citizenship was not on a two-tier basis and there was going to be no
apartheid, partition or repatriation.

"Racial differences were recognised. Diversity was encouraged. There
was no pressure to integrate into one Malayan race. Assimilation was
out of the question."

He describes the "social contract" as a charter of protection for the
minorities and a Bill of Rights for the majority.

"There is no constitutional reason why the Malays should have a
superiority complex and the non-Malays an inferiority complex.

"All Malaysians are entitled to be treated as Malaysians under the
Constitution; that sums up the social contract."

Thomas identifies the key social contract provisions in the Federal
Constitution as Articles 3, 4, 8(1), 8(2), 11, 12, 14-31, 152, 153,
159(5) and 161-161(H).

Guardian of the Social Contract
Thomas says the Alliance Government held itself out as protector of
the "social contract."

However, power sharing in the Alliance did not mean partnership of
equals as Umno was dominant from the start and the MCA and MIC were
junior partners.

Thomas says the "social contract" was threatened by several events in
the early years but the greatest challenges were in the 1990s:

*THE introduction of Islamic values into public institutions;

*THEN Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's declaration in 2001
that Malaysia was an Islamic State;

*THE creeping in of Syariah jurisdiction and the abdication of duty by
the common law courts in conversion cases; and

*THE keris kissing at the Umno Youth assembly.

Thomas says the March 8 election result was an indication of what
voters thought of the threats.

"But a lot has to do with the non-Umno communal parties which allowed
Umno to trample on them.

"The Opposition only had to rely on support which transcended race,
religion, gender and age to gain such substantial increases."

The MCA and Gerakan now face a test in Parliament with regard to the
Internal Security Act (ISA) after calling loudly for its review.

"The Opposition is petitioning for a discussion of the ISA. Only one
Barisan MP has signed the petition.

Stemming the erosion of the "social contract"
>>From its establishment in 1952 to contest the Municipal Elections of
Kuala Lumpur, Thomas says the Alliance was never a partnership of
equals. He notes it was in implementing the NEP that excesses

"The greatest abuse is the Approved Permits for motor vehicles and the
5% discount for bumiputera housebuyers. Both are discriminating and
outside the scope of Article 153.

"The policy that requires a 51% equity stake by Malay partners in a
law firm before it can be on a bank's panel of solicitors is
outrageous in both business and legal terms."

On recent suggestions that the "social contract" be taught to young
Malaysians, Thomas says: "I would rather we don't teach it than teach
it badly, in a partisan way or take the parts in isolation.

"Until we can write it in a fair and objective way, only then should
it be taught."

THE term "social contract" in Malaysia is different to that in social
science but does involve a quid pro quo, says International Islamic
University law professor Dr Abdul Aziz Bari.

Was the re-branding of the Alliance's inter-ethnic bargain to "social
contract" to legitimise the Umno-led government's policies?

Dr Abdul Aziz says that politicians, especially from Umno, use the
term for their own gain and narrow interests.

"To the non-Malays, I think the term means they should be accorded all
the rights they are entitled to as citizens.

"It is sad to see the Hindraf people being demonised by the
Government. This is a clear and blatant denial to a group of citizens.

"Similarly, in line with Article 152 of the Federal Constitution,
non-Malays should be given assistance in teaching their native

"The position of Malay as the national language does not mean it
denies the minorities their heritage and culture."

He adds that the same principle should be applied to temples and burial grounds.

"The social contract is not ketuanan Melayu or Malay supremacy,
meaning the Malays are masters and others are subordinates.

"Islam, the Malay language and the monarchy are simply the heritage
and identity of the country, just like the English language and the
monarchy in the United Kingdom.

"Obviously there should be only one identity to represent the nation
and this is normally selected on the basis of history."

With so many interpretations of "social contract", how does one
measure the value of a policy?

He says Umno has failed to deliver: "After more than 50 years we are
still stuck in the mud.

"Malays should no longer expect special treatment from the Government
which should be looking after everybody, especially the taxpayers."

Dr Abdul Aziz says the present generation should understand the
"social contract" but should not be expected to carry the old baggage.

"Even the young Malays, I think, are not interested in this and it
does not make any sense to them. Only those in Umno.

"I notice those in PKR or PAS do not talk about this but they are more
confident and willing to work with their non-Malay friends."

He says the Pakatan Rakyat government in Penang so far has done what
they can to make sure that everyone, especially the Malays, gets what
he is entitled to.

Shaila Koshy The Sunday Star 16/11/08

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