Special rights can’t be erased unless the Malays agree to it, says Khoo Kay Kim

(Bernama) – The people, irrespective of race, who question Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which spells out the special rights and privileges of the Malays and Bumiputeras, are blind about history and the constitution, an analyst said.

Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim said the special position of the Malays was recognised way back since the British era.

“When the British came to Malaya, they found that there were already Malay governments in several parts of the peninsula, and the British recognised these governments.

“These governments took care of a large number of people (the Malays). For the British, these people had their special rights. But those who came and lived in Malaya were not subjects of the Rulers and therefore, did not enjoy the same rights enjoyed by the Malays,” he told Bernama.

He said the non-Malays in the peninsula at that time were not citizens or subjects of the king, saying they only had the opportunity to apply for citizenship when the Federation of Malaya was formed on February 1, 1948.

“When the British planned the formation of the Malay Federation as a nation state, it was an extension of what already existed then, and by 1957, the Federal Constitution was formulated, incorporating the prevailing arrangement at that time,” he said.

The people, especially those from other races, should therefore respect the rights and privileges of the Malays as enshrined in the constitution because when it was first formulated, the various races had already agreed to what needed to be incorporated in it, he said.

“The special position of the Malays started since a long time ago and based on the system of government existed then. In the peninsula, nine Malay kingdoms existed since 1895, and continue to exist until today,” he said.

The Federal Constitution was formulated based on the recommendations of the Reid Commission. It took effect soon after the independence on August 31, 1957.

Article 153 spells out powers vested upon the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in safeguarding the special position of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, as well as the legitimate interests of other communities.

It also spells out in detail the functions of the King in ensuring quotas for the Malays and Bumiputeras in the public service, scholarships, public education as well as the provisions of permits and business licences.

Khoo said the reason why there were groups questioning the rights and privileges of the Malays was because the society of today was “blind about history”.

“They don’t understand (the constitution) and are ignorant of what they can or cannot do. There shouldn’t be any debate on the constitution because what is important is to follow what has been in use for so long,” he said.

He said that if the constitution was to be amended, it would require the agreement of two-thirds of MPs in Parliament and should be consented to by the King.

He added that anyone wanting to abolish or amend Article 153 should obtain the agreement of the Malays and Bumiputeras, the agreement of two-thirds of MPs in Parliament and the consent of the King.