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.