Malaysiakini Letter

The 'deep state' in academia

Mohd Nazim Ganti Shaari
Published:

LETTER | The below are the peculiarities delivered by a number of academics in Malaysia who have been continually invited to deliver them within and outside of the university ever since prior to the general election of May 2018:

1. The sovereignty of the Malay rulers is above the Federal Constitution and it transcends the constitution. The British themselves recognised the sovereignty of the Malay rulers in which in 1920, the sultan of Selangor pardoned the convict in the case of Ethel Proudlock.

2. Malaya was never colonised by the British; it was just a protectorate and the Malay rulers had control and powers during that period.

3. The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong has real powers over the armed forces in Malaysia which are confirmed by the court decision in Armed Forces Council of Malaysia v Major Fadzil.

4. There is a constitutional convention that the sovereignty of the Malay rulers transcends the constitution.

5. Article 153 confers special rights and privileges to the Malays and this has been acknowledged by the British in their treaties with the Malays prior to independence.

It could be observed that there has been an active and concerted effort by some quarters in the Malaysian academia to continue to spread the above misrepresentations. One would have thought that ever since the loss of Umno in May 2018, Malaysian universities would be active in deconstructing the web of propaganda and misrepresentations which ostensibly had been carried out in the name and endeavour of Malay history and identity. 

But such an endeavour truly has nothing to do with Malay identity and which any first-year law student studying constitutional law could easily tell that it is a form of academic fraud. Any bona fide law student knows that the powers of the king and the Malay rulers currently are limited by Article 40(1), Article 40(1A) and Schedule 8 of the Federal Constitution.

The academics who have been diligent in participating in this exercise of disinformation have never bothered to disclose the whole truth regarding the subject matter at hand. Any honest Malaysian academic would always start his discussion on feudalism in the Malay community. 

While there is naturally a concern that one must guard against the influence of orientalism in distorting and exoticising local history for the benefit of Westerners, it is beyond reasonable comprehension as to how any academic, let alone any reasonable person, could pretend that feudalism and the oppression of the Malays by the Malay ruling class which included the Malay nobility did not exist. 

These Malaysian academics who are busy rewriting history and the Federal Constitution have never addressed this tragedy either in their speeches or in their writings including academic papers.

Next, there has never been any proper and coherent discussion by these academics on the history, nature and scope of Article 153 regarding “the special position of the Malays”. Instead of their usual propaganda as to how “we are now being besieged by other ethnic groups and therefore we Malays must unite to defend our birthright”, these academics could have shown how the Malays fared in the past during the British colonial period and who among them received a lot of benefits from the colonial power. 

These academics could have read all the treaties that the British signed in the past with the Malay rulers to show that none of them contained any duty on the part of the colonial power to help the Malays. Also, these academics could have attacked orientalism in dissecting the true intention of Frank A Swettenham in describing the Malays as “the heir to the inheritance” in The Real Malay which contains many slurs against “the lazy Malays”.

There seems to be a 'deep state' in our academia. Talks, seminars and conferences which continue these agenda of misrepresentation and disinformation are still actively carried out in some of our universities and also outside the campus. This suggests the possibility of the connivance and collaboration of the management of these universities. 

Prior to the 2018 general elections, bigotry and ignorance were not only were normalised, but they were also cherished and rewarded with promotions and positions. Until today, we have not seen nor heard of any active effort from our universities to counter the misrepresentation and disinformation that has been spread out by these academics. 

In this age of “post-truth”, there is also credible support to say that these academics are not interested at all in “the truth” in which they are just content in supporting a politically-entrenched narrative based on emotions instead of facts. 

Some had argued that this is academic freedom. But academic freedom depends on academic integrity. Selective reading of historical texts, manipulating and censoring them to suit one’s personal agenda and at the same time firmly excluding any alternative views from other academics can never be defended as “academic freedom”. 

We are still waiting for the minister of education, ministry of education and universities to collectively and actively counter this propaganda. Maybe one day they will do something. Hopefully, it will not be too late by then.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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