Friday, May 16, 2008

Social Contract Myth and Scholars' Respond: A Rejoinder

by Amor Patriae (with minor deletions by kaytee)

I refer to Malaysiakini report, “Academics debate ‘social contract’ dated 15th May 2008

I would like congratulate and record my appreciation to Malaysiakini for initiating the most important discussion on nation building in Malaysia. What surprises me is, this kind of initiatives should come from scholars/ historians but surprisingly until Prof Ungku Aziz raised the issue, none of the scholars have come forward with such opinion, even at critical times of public debates in the last thirty years. From the time of Abdullah Ahmad book Ketuanan Melayu (1986) to the most recent event of GAPENA organised Malay unity conference in Johor, the dominant theme has been ‘Ketuanan Melayu’. Scholars rarely express their strong reservation in scholarly debates.

The only popular response that I can recollect is from V. Das compiled articles, Malay Dominance: The Abdullah Rubrick (1987). Some of the scholars interviewed by Malaysiakini contributed in the book. This is a weak response and not a scholarly rebut on the issue. No proper research was done by the scholars nor undertook more serious research later. This further confirms that the lead to important discussions on nation building in Malaysia are initiated by public intellectuals rather than scholars.

There are two issues that would have shed more light in the discussion should the experts commented. First, the seed of ‘social contract’ as was developed by UMNO and other Malay nationalist, the notion of “citizenship in exchange of Malay special rights”. Is this a correct notion given the existing historical data? Secondly, the contexts of special assistance for the Malays, is this an indefinite time frame policy in the original planning? Historians inform us that discussion minutes suggest it is time bound so do the Reid Commission. What are the opinions of our experts?

I would also like to take this opportunity to comment on some of the opinions of experts interviewed. Dr Azmi Sharom said that “the special privileges involves safeguarding the Malay language, the Sultanate and Islam”. To the best of my knowledge this aspects were never contested by the than Perikatan non Malay leaders nor by the non Malays after that (The known challenge was from communist leaning Leftist, comprising both ethnic Malays and Chinese). The only discussion from meeting minutes of early Perikatan discussions shows that the contestation is limited on the time frame for state assistance. They argued that time frame needed for the policies to elevate the poor Malays, or else it will be promote discrimination in the long run.

Dr Mavis Puthuceary opinion that “The social contract did not come into debate until Abdullah Ahmad raised it in 1986” is not true. In 1970s there were debates on “Dasar Kebudayaan Kebangsaan” or “Dasar Kesusasteraan Kebangsaan”, the former asserts that that Malay culture as base and anything not recognised by Islam is prohibited as national culture and the latter asserts that only literature written in Malay is national language, others ‘sastera sukuan’.

Prof Shamsul Amri argument of equating ‘ketuanan rakyat’ and ‘ketuanan Melayu’ or Karpal Singh to Hishamudin Hussien is not only naïve but flawed. I shall not comment this but just lump it with his other statements before this. Readers will remember, he commented ASLI report on Malay ownership as “I am very skeptical about the study which has been carried out by a particular race. They (the race) usually have their own agendas” (Malaysiakini, 27 Sept 2006). Now he made a remark on Prof Ungku Aziz as follows, “I don’t know what he reads aside from economic books” (Malaysiakini, 15 May 2008). I beg humility, Prof Shamsul.

Prof Shamsul was the engineer behind the new ethnic studies module (following the uproar from the earlier UPM ethnic module) and it is used as standard text for undergraduates in all universities in Malaysia. This module has numerous errors and very poor editorial, both in language and contents. That’s a side, I would like to ask, what is the paradigm of the ethnic studies module? Does it accept the “Ketuanan Melayu” in the “social contract” meaning? His statements here differ from many glaring statements of ‘social contract’ in the module. What is his respond to this?

Secondly, when USM scholars rejected the offer from Ministry of Higher Education to write the ethnic module because the Ministry did not obliged to their condition for fairness and equality of all races in Malaysia, Prof Shamsul accepts the offer and willing to chart ethnic studies in Malaysia through the ‘social contract’ paradigm. When he accepts this, why being apologetic here? Anyway, I assume the recent perks such as ‘Director of Ethnic Studies UKM” and ‘Anugerah Melayu Cemerlang’ by UMNO for creating the ethnic module are ........ gratifying rewards ........

I propose that a ........ historian with integrity and value knowledge be commissioned to conduct an independent study on independence of Malaya and early formation of Malaysia. One such person will be the renowned historian, Prof Cheah Boon Kheng. Apart from that, the ethnic studies module should be revised in order to end polarisation at higher learning institution. Only than can we have help to build Bangsa Malaysia.


  1. salam,

    ada masa mohon tonton video2 ni..

    Video 1

    Video 2

    sumber :

  2. We talk about the events and understanding when Malaya achieves its independence. Will the understanding change and what happen to the cultures and rights of the bumis in Sabah and Sarawak. When they accept to form Malaysia, do they accept Ketuanan Melayu and submit to UMNO's Malayness?

  3. Ketuanan Melayu was a useful tool for appeasement and suppression of the majority Malay masses. O

    Obivuously it is a self fulfilling crowning glory for someone to feel important. It kind of helped keep the masses in check while the few in UMNO plundered and raped.

    Where ever in the world do you find any race at all absorbed by the sense of self importance that is effused by such catch phrases such as this "ketuanan" what ever.

    Yes, the Indians in the caste practised this without even having to say it. The moment a guy held himself up to be Brahmin, nothing needed to be said about his superiority. It was clearly assumed to be known.

    Poor Malays, or should I be more specific and say, poor UMNOPutras, they need to keep repeating "ketuanan Melayu" to just hold themselves up, lest they themselves forget to push themselves forward.

    Well, at least that is how it seems to be in the way this "ketuanan melayu' is bandied about and tht is what it seems to represent.

  4. I posted a comment in Tun Mahathir's blog on "Ketuanan Melayu", but it seems the moderator finds it inappropriate. I have the same here:

    Yang Dihormati Tun, Saya tidak bersetuju dengan pandangan yang sampaikan. Ia seolah meneguk di air keruh. Dua perkara dibezakan, pertama kritikan terhadap UMNO dan kepempinannya kini dan kedua soal pembinaan bangsa di Malaysia. Tun mengambil kedudukan mengecam UMNO dan kepimpinannya dan membelakangkan soal pembentukan bangsa di Malaysia. Amanat Tun ini akan tercatat dalam sejarah, sebagaimana Che Det, akan menjelma kembali dari silam. Tun ialah mantan Perdana Menteri untuk semua rakyat Malaysia tanpa mengira agama dan bangsa.

    UMNO bukanlah lagi rakyat semata-mata.Ini ialah fakta yang pahit ditelan. UMNO mula dianggap sebagai oleh kebanyakkan orang Melayu sebagai 'parti sayap kanan'. Gambaran parti sayap kanan dan imej fasisme mula tergambar dalam sanubari cerdik pandai Melayu. Apa yang berlaku sekarang ialah proses sejarah yang cuba menakrif semula imej UMNO untuk terus relevan dalam politik Malaysia.Imej lama UMNO haya sejarah semata-mata.

    Kritikan terhadap perkara ini harus dibezakan dengan usaha untuk membentuk dan menjalin hubungan kaum kearah pembentukan bangsa Malaysia. Oleh itu, sejarah tidak lagi boleh disadur dengan fakta yang kita ingini semata-mata. Apakah benar adanya 'kontrak sosial' seperti yang ditekankan oleh Tun semasa menyanggah Prof Ungku Aziz? Jika ada, mengapa ianya ghaib dari pandangan sejarawan? Jika ini wujud, bukankah ia merupakan punca kepada amalan rasuah dan penyelewangan yang berleluasa pemimpin UMNO dan terpinggirnya segelintir bangsa Melayu dari arus pembangunan?

    Kebenaran dapat dilindungi dengan kekuasaan tetapi lambat laun ia akan terpancar jua. Semoga Tun membezakan kritikan terhadap kepimpinan UMNO dan kebenaran sejarah.

  5. ^ Shows that the different warring factions in UMNO have one thing in common: they can't tolerate criticism. Even Khir Toyo's website is censored to only allow positive comments.

    Meanwhile, Kit Siang allowed the hundreds of posts criticizing him for his decision to boycott the appointment ceremony of the Perak Mentri Besar.