Side Views

Exploding two myths — Mohd Nazim Ganti Shaari

December 08, 2012

DEC 8 — Myth No.1: “Malays are guaranteed to receive all kinds of benefits, advantages and special treatment from the government (using taxpayers’ money) simply on the basis of their membership to the Malay tribe.”

It should be clear to anyone who has actually read Article 153 of the Federal Constitution that that particular view remains a myth. In fact, Article 153 focuses on both “special position of the Malays/natives of Sabah and Sarawak” together with “legitimate interests of other communities”. Anyone reading further than the constitution itself could and would discover that the framers of the constitution back in 1957 did not have any intention to enshrine it into permanency. 

Furthermore, it was Umno who proposed for Article 153 to be reviewed after some time, the same opinion that was also shared by the Conference of Rulers. When one goes back to the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1948, which gave birth to our present Article 153, one would similarly discover that the focus was both on the “special position of the Malays” AND (this writer’s emphasis) “legitimate interests of other communities”. 

Closer to this century, one could similarly open the government’s White Paper entitled “Towards National Harmony”. The aim of this White Paper that was prepared and published in 1971 was to inform and educate Malaysian citizens regarding the intention of the ruling political party to amend Article 153 in enlarging the powers of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong therein. 

It is very interesting to note that in this White Paper, that was prepared and published by the government of the father of our current prime minister in 1971, the Tun Abdul Razak government emphasised that the purpose of Article 153 was simply to address the economic imbalances among the different races back then, as opposed to the supposed manifestation of the supremacy of the Malays. 

In fact, the Razak government disagreed giving scholarships to all Malay university students on the basis that it would be an unjust enrichment to the rich Malays, thereby supporting the idea under social theory that one must always guard against giving benefits to the wealthy especially so when giving special treatment to any marginalised community.

Myth No.2: “We (the Malays/public servants) must be loyal to the government.”

In a country that practices democracy, the government is formed by the ruling political party, who is voted to be in power by the citizens. As much as the citizens have the right to elect whomever to be in the government is as much as the citizens have the right to disagree with the government, or even to vote for a different political party to be in power. A Malaysian citizen owes his/her loyalty to the Federation of Malaysia, not to the government, and certainly not to any political party, ruling or otherwise. In Lim Lian Geok vs Minister of the Interior, Federation of Malaya [1962] MLJ 159: per Thomson CJ:

“What we are concerned with here is disloyalty or disaffection which would justify depriving a citizen of his citizenship and on that it is I think clear that at least one essential element in such disloyalty or disaffection must be something more than mere disapproval of existing constitutional arrangements or of the policy of those who for the time being are in control of the Government. After all the Constitution is not something that has been brought down from the heights of Pisgah nor do the persons who for the time being constitute its Government and lay down its policy enjoy political immortality any more than they enjoy personal immortality. The Constitution itself contains in gremio the means by which it may itself be changed and the means by which what is popularly called the Government can be changed easily and without any fundamental damage being done, if such be the will of the citizens. Clearly, then, if a citizen merely dislikes and wishes to change any of the provisions of the Constitution or dislikes and wishes to change the Government of the day in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution designed to facilitate such a change or dislikes and wishes to have changed any part of the policy of Government and if he states his views publicly with a view to persuading his fellow citizens to operate the machinery of the Constitution in such a way as to bring about the changes he would wish to see them, to my mind, there can be no question of disloyalty or disaffection.

“If, however, he acts and speaks in such a way as to excite his fellow citizens to disobey the laws rather than to change them; if he behaves in such a way as to endanger the domestic peace and tranquillity or the enjoyment of law and order which the Federation must assure to its citizens if it is to continue to exist; if it is the natural and probable consequences of what he says and does that some citizens may be moved to effect changes in the persons making up or in the machinery of Government otherwise than in the way provided for by the Constitution itself; then and in any one of such cases it would, to my mind, be open as a matter of law to say that that individual’s conduct showed disloyalty or disaffection.”

Further, public servants are required to be neutral. A long time ago, an infamous vice-chancellor of a certain university tried to pontificate that his university staff must be loyal to Umno/Barisan Nasional since Umno/Barisan Nasional formed the government, and that the same rationale applies if PAS/DAP/PKR were to form the government. This opinion is devoid of substance since loyalty to the ruling political party which is cloaked with the veil/label of “government” takes away the neutrality of the public servants. 

This neutrality/impartiality is the bedrock of good governance in which the doctrine of separation of powers demands that public servants are not agents/servants to the politicians. Even if the government were to pass any legislation demanding public servants to be loyal to the “government” (ruling political party), such a law would be unconstitutional and thereby null and void, and surely in the year 2012 everyone would know by now that there is no “parliamentary supremacy” or even “governmental supremacy” in Malaysia in which the government cannot rule the country according to its whims and fancies since Article 4 of the Federal Constitution declares that it is the constitution that is supreme in Malaysia. 

Therefore it is strange to hear complaints from some public servants that they had been found guilty of “anti-government” activities just by attending a ceramah by DAP/PAS/PKR. It is even stranger to hear complaints from some university students that they had been asked by the student affairs department to spy on their fellow students and lecturers for any “anti-government” sentiments/activities.

With all of these myths exposed bare, why do the majority of mainstream politicians, a certain number of public servants, a certain number of lecturers and professors and politicians-masquerading-as-academicians still regurgitate these same myths? Are they ignorant? Could it be that the ones who still spout such nonsense are shameless sycophants? 

I pray for the former, since I could make an attempt to educate them. If they were sycophants who only care to protect their own personal interests and the interests of their political masters, contempt does not even begin to describe how I feel towards them since these are the real traitors to the Federation of Malaysia.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.