On 12th July 2010, the Malaysian Insider quoted MPM committee member Professor Datuk Dr Kamarudin Kachar as saying that federal scholarships should be allocated in accordance with the country's racial ratio.
As we all know, MPM stands for Majlis Perundingan Melayu or the Malay Consultative Council. It is driven by the ultra-Malay group, Perkasa, led by Ibrahim Ali and finds support by luminaries such as Dr Mahathir.
While Minister Nazri has today insisted that we all should get rid of Perkasa - "because Perkasa is not in line with Datuk Seri Najib (Razak’s) 1 Malaysia concept,” and “we (are) against any form of racism and Perkasa certainly doesn’t belong or [is] supported by Umno,” - the Deputy Prime Minister and some other Ministers have often said that Perkasa is entitled to voice its opinion on matters affecting Malay rights.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Najib has refused to be associated with Perkasa by refusing to attend its gathering at the PWTC some months ago. However, his tacit approval of Perkasa and what it stands for is well perceived upon his refusal to openly state that Perkasa runs counter to his 1 Malaysia concept.
In fact, the Prime Minister's posturing on his New Economic Model, which saw him broach the subject of transparency and meritocracy in the awards of government contracts only to later announce that he would not betray the interests of the Malays after Perkasa had raised its usual Malay rights rants a couple of decibels upwards, lends credence to the perception that he, at the very least, is conscious of Perkasa's influence among the conservative Malays if not wholly in agreement with it.
In the UMNO Youth Chief, YB Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister Nazri finds an unlikely ally. Khairy has openly criticised Perkasa and its chief, Ibrahim Ali, whom he (Khairy) described as a "jaguh kampung" (village champion).
Ibrahim responded by asking Khairy to resign from his post as the UMNO Youth Chief.
The fact that Minister Nazri has said that Perkasa should be gotten rid of came as no surprise as the latter's connection with Dr Mahathir is not very well hidden. And Minister Nazri's disdain with anything Mahathir is also quite obvious. In addition, Khairy Jamaluddin is also not exactly in love with Dr Mahathir. The feeling is mutual, I must hasten to add.
As I am writing this article, Ibrahim Ali has responded the Minister Nazri's call by saying that Minister Nazri should instead be gotten rid of.
Elsewhere, the Deputy Prime Minister, had ventured into a really murky territory by saying that all can form their own Perkasa.
Since the inception of Perkasa and the rise of Ibrahim Ali as the leader of this self-styled Malay pressure group, I have found Perkasa - and it's various offshoots, such as Gertak, Pekida, Pewaris and MPM - to be nothing but a political gimmickry entirely lacking in any form of substantive intellect.
And to think that there is someone in MCA who had suggested that the Chinese should have its own Perkasa is nothing short of comedic. What will the Chinese version of Perkasa be named? PerkaChua?
That Perkasa lacks intellectual credibility is obvious from Ibrahim Ali's call for Khairy Jamaluddin to resign and for Minister Nazri to be gotten rid of. Why must KJ resign or Minister Nazri be sacked? Just because they disagree with Ibrahim Ali?
This is endemic among Malaysians who are quite obviously less endowed in the cranium, I must say. When one could not rebut what one's opponent is saying, one attacks the opponent. If no credible attack could be mounted, one calls for his or her resignation. Whatever for? Would the opponent resign just because of that call?
Personally, I do not for a moment believe that the government in general, and UMNO in particular, to be in such a chaotic state over Perkasa. I really do not believe that the various personalities in UMNO are at odd over Perkasa.
To me, it is a balancing act. Someone has to pacify the non Malays and someone else within the same organisation has to pacify the conservative Malay. Hence the seeming inconsistent stands on Perkasa from different personalities within UMNO.
Whatever it is, Perkasa has been allowed to raise a number of issues by the government. It has, for example, raised issues about the meritocracy plan under the New Economic Model. It has even managed to scream over the Bank Negara's refusal to disallow Affin Bank to make an offer to take over EON Bank.
And yesterday, through MPM, it demanded that federal scholarship should be distributed in accordance with the racial ratio. The rationale for that is explained as follows:
“The Malay population of this country is 67 per cent. That means 67 per cent of scholarships should be set aside for deserving Malays and Bumiputeras,” says MPM committee member Professor Datuk Dr Kamarudin Kachar (as quoted by the Malaysian Insisder).
I do not know whether the Malay population in Malaysia consists of 67% of the whole population of Malaysia. That apart, the simplistic approach taken by the good Professor is alarming, to say the least.
What if, out of the 67%, the family of 25% of the Malays could more than afford to send their children to any university thereby negating any necessity for scholarship?
What if the government decides to impose taxes based on the racial ratio, arguing that since the Malays form 67% of Malaysia' total population, the Malays should pay more taxes as all public utilities ad amenities are obviously used more by the Malays than other races?
The eradication of poverty, emancipation and empowerment of the people of this country, intellectually and politically, is a must, if we are serious in achieving the goal of being a developed nation by 2020 or at all.
I, for one, am not going to deny the necessity for affirmative action, if that is what it takes to raise the economic status of a certain section of our society, be it the Malays or any other race.
The fact that there are special positions enjoyed by the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak is also undeniable and unquestionable. And I am not questioning them.
But what are those special positions? How are they "protected"? Is the mechanism for this so called "protection" left at our whims and fancies?
Article 153 of the Federal Constitution lays out the answer. But we do not seem to want to analyse it, let alone understand and implement it whole heartedly.
Quite to the contrary, we seem to be hell-bent on twisting its purview and purports, taking away the spirit of the provision from its implementation, thereby making a mockery of all the good intentions of our forefathers, who fought for independence and negotiated the inclusion of the provisions into our supreme law, the Federal Constitution.
This is what it says:
"Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, but subject to the provisions of Article 40 and of this Article, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall exercise his functions under this Constitution and federal law in such manner as may be necessary to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and to ensure the reservation for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak of such proportion as he may deem reasonable of positions in the public service (other than the public service of a State) and of scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government and, when any permit or licence for the operation of any trade or business is required by federal law, then, subject to the provisions of that law and this Article, of such permits and licences."
Allow me to break the provision up for better clarity. Broken to its core, article 153 provides as follows:
a) the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall exercise his functions under this Constitution and federal law in such manner as may be necessary to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak;
b) his Royal Highness shall ensure the reservation for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak of such proportion as he may deem reasonable of the followings:
- positions in the public service;
- scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government;
- any permit or licence for the operation of any trade or business as required by federal law.
The crux of article 153 is not the racial ratio. It is "reasonableness".
The question is therefore not one of numerical superiority. Nor is it racial superiority. Or even "ketuanan".
Article 153 posits the existence of an executive responsibility. That responsibility is to ensure that the provision is implemented as reasonableness demands. It is therefore a highly visionary provision.
I say "visionary" because we cannot discount a time in the future where "reasonableness" dictates that no reservation of the various matters spelt out above should be made for the Malays and/or the natives of Sabah and/or Sarawak.
If we could not discount that possibility, than we would have failed miserably as a nation. To think that the Malays and natives of Sabah and/or Sarawak would need various positions to be reserved for them for eternity, out of social or political necessity, is an admission on our part that we would never be able to alleviate poverty and social as well as economics imbalance among the Malays and the natives forever and ever.
In that instant, are we, as a people and as a nation, not ashamed of ourselves?
The correct question to be asked, in respect of the distribution of the federal scholarship, is then not a numerical one. It is this.
How many federal scholarships (scholarships given by states government do not come within the purview of article 153) should be reserved for the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak as would be reasonable?
Surely, the concept of reasonableness would entail a careful and deep analysis of needs and necessity of the Malays and natives for such scholarship as compared to the other races. Surely, it would entail a careful study of the academic achievements of the Malays and natives as compared to the other races. Surely it would entail a certain set of guidelines and criterions for selection of qualified students.
I may be wrong on the above. But what I am dead sure about is this.
I am sure that Article 153 does not provide as follows:
"All federal scholarships, positions in civil service, business licenses and permits shall be reserved, firstly, for the Malays, secondly for the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the remaining, if any, for the other races."
I am also sure that article 153 does not posit the distribution of federal scholarships in accordance with numerical superiority.
Perkasa's demand, through MPM, for the federal scholarships to be distributed in accordance with racial make up of our country is not only incongruous with the concept of 1 Malaysia, but is also repugnant against the Federal Constitution, both in its letters and spirit.