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COMMENT | We want the original 1957 social contract

COMMENT | Nazir Razak’s suggestion of a new national consultation to discuss the economic, political, and social path for the nation is a good one, although I believe we should use the original Independence social contract as a starting point.

The former CIMB Group chairperson further called for the setting up of a National Consultative Council (NCC) to bring leaders of respective fields together to carve out a new way forward for the nation. 

Again, I concur, except to stress that “leaders” should be leaders of organisations representing the various ethnic, cultural, religious and gender communities, rather than academics.

The original 1957 social contract

It is time for Malaysians to reaffirm the non-discriminatory basis of the 1957 Federal Constitution and to uphold our "fundamental liberties" in Part II which are strictly anti-racist.

Article 8(1) of the Malaysian Constitution clearly spells out the principle of equality of all Malaysians while Article 12(1) allows no discrimination against any citizens on the grounds of religion, race, descent, or place of birth.

Article 153 on the special position of Malays was inspired by the affirmative action provisions of the Indian Constitution to protect the minority under-privileged class of Harijans. Ours is fundamentally different from the context for those provisions because the ethnic group, in whose favour the discrimination operates in Malaysia, happens to be the one in political control, the Malays.

Nevertheless, at the time of Independence in 1957, four matters in relation to which the special position of Malays was recognised and safeguarded were: land; admission to public services; issuing of permits or licences for the operation of certain businesses; scholarships, bursaries, or other forms of aid for educational purposes.

When the Constitutional (Reid) Commission was considering whether such a provision should be included in the 1957 Constitution, it made the following comments:

“Our recommendations are made on the footing that the Malays should be assured that the present position will continue for a substantial period, but that in due course the present preferences should be reduced and should ultimately cease so that there should be no discrimination between races or... 

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