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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Umno, BN allowed ‘hijacking’ of Article 153


No one is questioning the legitimacy of Article 153 but what should be discussed is its implementation, says a political analyst.
PETALING JAYA: Lack of public discussions over Article 153 of the Federal Constitution has allowed narrow minded extremists such as Perkasa to hijack the clause for their own selfish agenda.
Article 153 of the federal constitution calls for the safeguarding of the ‘special position’ of Malays and the ‘legitimate’ rights of non-Malays.
Whilst the term ‘special position’ has come to mean, and by default, ‘special rights’, the legitimate rights of the non Malays, according to Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI) director Lim Teck Ghee, has been ‘diluted’.
Lim blamed this on Umno and Barisan Nasional.
“By preventing discussion about it, extremist group like Perkasa has hijacked the clause with their ludicrous interpretation of Article 153.
“Article 153 accords protection for non-bumiputeras but the matter seems to have been diluted,” said Lim commenting on Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s warning to the public not to debate and question Article 153.
Muhyddin said any discussions could trigger “racial tension”.
He was responding to National Evangelical Christian Fellowship chairman Eu Hong Seng who alleged that Article 153 was used to bully the non-Malays into submission.
“There is a reason, a rationale, behind the article. There is a history behind it.”
“I hope that there will be no debate on this matter as it could incite racial tension. What is already enshrined in the Constitution should not be questioned” said Muhyiddin.
‘No one is questioning legitimacy’
Perkasa also joined the fray and accused Eu of trying to instigate animosity against the Malays by questioning the privileges accorded to the majority group.
Article 153 paragraph (1) reads: “It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article”.
Rebutting Perkasa’s views, Lim said that BN should, in its election manifesto, devote time and effort to address the grievances that arise from the narrow interpretation of Article 153.
“There are many who appear to be ignorant about the clause and BN should make a stand on it to stop further verbal sparring over the matter,” he said.
Echoing Lim’s view, University College Sedaya International (UCSI)’s political analyst Ong Kian Meng said Article 153 should be read again in its full context and “in the spirit the supreme law of the land was drafted by the nation’s founders.”
“No one is questioning its legitimacy but we are talking about its implementation,” said Ong.
He also said that Malaysians are mature enough to discuss the topic and people should address the implementation of policies linked to the clause in order to benefit all races.
“For example, the New Economic Policy (NEP) is not part of Article 153. That is something that needs to be addressed as many are oblivious about it,” he said.
‘Change takes time’
Although he agreed that in the past there was limited room to discuss this matter, the situation was improving since the 2008 general election.
Universiti Malaya political analyst KS Balakrishnan, on the other hand, said there was no need to question or debate anything on the constitution as everyone’s rights were guaranteed under the social contract.
“What we need to address is on how to distribute the nation’s wealth equally and help the underpriviliged which the BN administration is already doing,” said Balakrishnan.
He also dismissed Eu’s claims and said the Chinese and the Indians were not stopped from seeking a fair share of the nation’s wealth for their respective community.
However, Balakrishnan conceded that although the right policies were in place to cater for all Malaysians, the government should look into speeding up its process.
“Change takes time and the government is in the process of ironing out the right policies for all,’ he said.

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