The Preservation of Democracy and the Rule of Law in Malaysia

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim's speech at The Oxbridge Malaysia Dinner Dialogue Series, hosted by the Oxford & Cambridge Society, Malaysia.
Date: Thursday, 9th of July 2009
Venue: Bankers’ Club, Kuala Lumpur

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for your invitation for me to speak today. When I accepted your kind offer, I was ‘party-less’. But things have now changed. I have drawn my line in the sand. And I have chosen sides. Today, I am a proud member of Parti Keadilan Rakyat.

Today I am persuaded by the argument that for Malaysia to have democracy and the Rule of Law, we must have a new government; a viable inclusive government of the people; a government for all Malaysians. Today I am dedicated to the cause of securing the success of Parti Keadilan and Pakatan Rakyat, and ensuring that it galvanises the best talents and ideas to form a robust alternative Malaysian political force to lead the nation, to deliver true integration and nationhood.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
This country was established as a secular multicultural and multi-religious democracy ala the Westminster model. The Constitution however provides for a special position for the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak. They unfortunately omitted to include the Orang Asli in this special category, although they were naturally the first original inhabitants of this country. All they got was a Jabatan Orang Asli. The special provisions for Bumiputras under Article 153 do not make them more special than other citizens, for the fighters of independence did not envisage an Orwellian society where some are more equal than others. The acceptance of equality of rights as citizens is central to the success of our Malaysian journey.

When the PM announced his 1 Malaysia slogan, I asked if that meant he would make a declaration that all Malaysians are equal. The answer was not forthcoming till today. All he said was rights must be understood in the context of responsibilities. Another fuzzy reply. When critics asked if 1 Malaysia meant that the cultural characteristics of the diverse racial groups would be assimilated to a new design called 1 Malaysia, he quickly denied that it was an assimilation plan. So therefore I assume that 1 Malaysia is an affirmation of the rights of ALL the citizens under the Constitution, an affirmation of the multicultural and multi- religious nature of our country; and that the principles of Rukun Negara will continue to be the mainstay of our society.

My detractors say that my views are fodder for the egos and insecurities of those who detest the constitutional position of the Malays. They say I work too hard at being a Malaysian and by doing so, have forgotten my roots and responsibilities to the Malays. And that no right thinking Malay, who truly understands what is at stake, would ever support me. I know my heritage, I know my humble beginnings, and I know my roots and my responsibilities as a Malay. They are wrong. To them, let me say this.

UMNO — being hidden in a cave for so long and concealed from the real world — have almost abandoned the idea of a shared and common nationhood. They believe that for so long as the MCA and the MIC remain with them as partners of convenience, that is sufficient to build a nation. They think it’s sufficient to forge a new nation by electoral arrangements. The MCA and the MIC also think it’s sufficient for nationhood if they remain business partners of UMNO.