The latest news in town is the intrepid Hindraf campaign to highlight the long outstanding issue of the marginalization of Indian Malaysians and their unanswered grievances. Yes, those poor Indians, after 50 years of independence and all they can show for themselves is the dubious title of Malaysia’s ‘Forgotten Community’.
So who can really blame the Hindraf people for taking the sensationalizing road to bring the world’s attention, especially the most important and much needed one of PM AAB, to their plight, that of being left behind, mired in hopelessness and carrying the impossible load of despair.
But Malaysiakini has reported that de facto leader of the PKR, Anwar Ibrahim has “… urged the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) to direct its grievances towards the ‘corrupt’ Umno-led Barisan Nasional government” and not Article 153 of the Constitution.
Campaigning against UMNO is a ‘given’ but why not against Article 153?
Let’s remind ourselves of what Article 153 is. According to Wikipedia:
Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia) responsibility for safeguarding the rights and privileges of the Malay of East and West Malaysia, and other native people of Sabah & Sarawak, Malaysia, collectively referred to as Bumiputra.
However, it should be noted that this special protection does not cover the aboriginals of West-Malaysia, who are the original inhabitants of West-Malaysia. As such, the aboriginals of West-Malaysia does not have special privileges.
The article specifies how the federal government may protect the interest of these groups by establishing quotas for entry into the civil service, public scholarships and public education.
It is often considered to be part of the social contract, and is commonly cited as a legal defense of ketuanan Melayu — the belief that the Malays are the "masters" (tuan) of Malaysia.
Article 153 is one of the most controversial articles in the Malaysian constitution. Critics consider it to create an unnecessary and racialist distinction between Malaysians of different ethnic backgrounds, because it has led to the implementation of affirmative action policies which only benefit the Bumiputra (excluding the aboriginals of West-Malaysia), who comprise a majority of the population.
Technically, discussing the repeal of Article 153 is illegal — even in Parliament, although it was drafted as a temporary provision to the Constitution. Despite this prohibition on discussion, the article is heatedly debated both privately and publicly among Malaysians. Opposition groups, especially the Democratic Action Party, are often against the implementation of the article although ostensibly maintaining support for it. Nevertheless, the article is viewed as a sensitive matter by many, with politicians who oppose it often being labelled as racist.
Malaysia’s most famous blogger, Raja Petra Kamarudin of the very popular and widely read Malaysia-Today website wrote 2 years ago, on 26 September 2005, that:
The truth is, the NEP is not ‘new’; meaning, created only in 1970. For all intents and purposes, the NEP, though it was never called that in the beginning, was always with us and was part of the Merdeka ‘package’, in that it had been written into Malaysia’s Federal Constitution. Therefore, whether one likes it or not, the NEP was something agreed by all races even before Malaya gained independence in 1957. The only thing is, it was never given any name (NEP) and was not aggressively implemented until 13 years after Merdeka.
Maybe that’s explains why Hindraf is suing the British for their colonial role or, to be more contemporary in Hindraf’s eyes, their colonial lack of due diligence to ensure equality and fairness for all Malayan/Malaysian citizens, by allowing such an Article to be written into the Constitution.
But then, why is Anwar Ibrahim concerned about Hindraf campaigning against Article 153? Why has he said, according to the Malaysiakini news report, that “Hindraf has incorrectly attributed its grievances to the Constitution, in particular Article 153”?
Article 153 was, in Raja Petra’s words (see above), “aggressively implemented … 13 years after Merdeka”.
Raja Petra had also written: “The NEP, which was launched in 1970 after the infamous race riots of May 1969, was supposed to run for 20 years. By the end of the NEP in 1990 though, the 30% target set for the Bumiputera share of the economic pie fell far short, forcing the government to introduce a new policy that was basically the NEP in another form.”
If there was no Article 153, one could argue that Indian Malaysians might possibly not have suffered the same biblical fate as Moses (pbuh), wandering around for approximately 4o years in the Malayan/Malaysian ‘wilderness’ since 1969, during which time they fell off by the wayside, a callously castaway casualty of the relentless broadening and escalation of the ethnocentric NEP programmes, where now, even statistics on bumiputera economic achievements are deemed almost a State secret, sensitive and seditious to discuss.
Without Article 153 there wouldn’t be any legal legs for the NEP to stand on.
Now, isn’t dismantling the NEP one of Anwar Ibrahim’s latest policy? Or have I been wrong?
Anwar Ibrahim confuses me further by saying that while he expressed support for Hindraf to hold a peaceful demonstration, "he appealed to the organisation to consider a more balanced and responsible approach to address its grievances" (see Malaysiakini).
What does he mean by Hindraf “to consider a more balanced and responsible approach to address its grievances”?
How would Hindraf be not balanced and not responsible in its approach of campaigning against Article 153?
Within the context of his statements, would I be wrong in assuming that to mean “Hindraf, hands off Article 153”?
(1) Malaysia's Economic Pariahs?
(2) The Toddy Syndrome