Time to champion the Malaysian agenda, says academic

Although Article 153 of the constitution deals with the special position of the Malays, this does not mean the exclusion of other races as well, academic says. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: An academic has urged political parties to stop operating along ethnocentric lines and to begin championing the “Malaysian agenda” instead.

Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, a professor at Universiti Sains Malaysia, said there was a need to return to the spirit of the Federal Constitution, specifically Article 153.

He said when parties talked about fighting for the Malay agenda, it was usually in reference to this section of the constitution which touched on the special position of the Malays.

“But if we look at the wording of Article 153, which grants the king the role of safeguarding the position of the Malays, it does not say that this sort of safeguarding is to the exclusion of other non-Malay communities.

“This clause of Article 153 is not supposed to be exclusionary,” he said, adding however that it had been interpreted and understood as such by Umno and other Malay-centric parties.

“Once you agree to safeguard the position of the Malays, for instance the Bumiputeras and the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak, it also means that those parties have to agree to look after the interest of other communities,” he told FMT.

Fauzi was responding to PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan, who said the Islamist party was taking over the fight for the Malay-Muslim agenda from Umno which had been weakened after the recent exodus of lawmakers.

Under Article 153 of the constitution, the king must exercise his constitutional functions and his executive functions under federal law to generally safeguard the special position of the Bumiputeras, and specifically establish quotas for Bumiputeras in federal public service positions, federal scholarships, federal trade or business licences, and tertiary education enrolment.

He is also responsible for safeguarding the legitimate interests of other communities, such as ensuring the impartial treatment of civil servants regardless of race, and that no one is deprived of federal scholarships already enjoyed.

Fauzi acknowledged that there were certain clauses pertaining to the special position of the Malays but cautioned that this did not mean neglecting other communities, “as if to deprive them of what they also deserve, as citizens of Malaysia in their own spheres”.

“If we understand from the Federal Constitution that there are different spheres of interests which must be acknowledged, and as we understand the history, all parties have interests.

“Once you agree to Article 153, you have to protect all. So if PAS or Umno thinks they are looking after the Malay agenda, if they do it without the intention of looking after the interests of non-Malays as well, then they have gone against the constitution,” he said.

He added that this was one of the reasons PAS and Umno were losing out, as they were increasingly portraying themselves as only looking after the Malay-Muslims when in fact there were many such people, especially in the urban areas, who realised the importance of safeguarding the interests of their non-Malay friends.

“Many Malay-Muslims have realised this. It might be argued that a majority of Malays voted for PAS and Umno instead of Pakatan Harapan (PH), but things are slowly changing,” he said.

“If PAS and Umno keep harping on their ethnocentric agenda, in the long term they will lose out.”

He also warned other race-based parties to avoid merely championing the agenda of a particular ethnic group, and cautioned PH over recent concerns about Umno elements entering PPBM.

“They have to be wary of ethnocentric elements creeping into PH because one of the reasons for the downfall of Umno was its increasing inability to see the fate and interests of the people in terms of Malaysia rather than Malay or non-Malay.

“Remember, there are two parts to Article 153. Look at both. I think some have selectively chosen the parts that are to their advantage and portrayed it to the population as being part of an exclusive interest.”

Meanwhile, Awang Azman Awang Pawi from Universiti Malaya said PAS and Umno claimed to have championed the Malay-Muslim agenda during the May 9 polls, claiming they were more Malay and Muslim than any others.

He urged majority Malay-Muslim parties in PH like Amanah and PPBM to step up and be more vocal on issues concerning Malays and Islam.

“As the government of the day, Amanah and PPBM should be taking up the mantle, but they have not utilised this opportunity.

“They need to address and explain Malay and Islamic issues better, and tackle them in a wiser way than what the opposition parties are doing.”

He also suggested that they hold dialogues or sessions with non-Muslims to foster a better understanding of the issue.

He said this would kill two birds with one stone as PH would be seen as championing the Malay-Muslim agenda while also gaining the support of non-Muslims.