Aziz Bari says Article 153 shortchanges no one

(The Malaysian Insider) – Constitutional expert Abdul Aziz Bari said Article 153 of the Federal Constitution protects all communities and not just Bumiputeras, saying Perkasa is wrong to claim it is only for the dominant majority.

Perkasa had warned Christians yesterday not to question the provision the Malay rights group says is to protect the rights of Bumiputeras.

The International Islamic University (UIA) law professor told The Malaysian Insider “the constitution is clear that no one should be shortchanged.”

“The wording of Article 153(1), that actually sets the tone and theme of the provision, seeks to be fair to all — the backward Malay and Borneo native communities as well as all other communities,” he said in an email sent to The Malaysian Insider.

On Saturday, National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) chairman Reverend Dr Eu Hong Seng said Article 153 is akin to “bullying” if it only protects the rights of one group.

But Perkasa responded by saying the Article helped keep the country peaceful, further claiming that the race riots of May 13, 1969 happened because it was not implemented properly.

“This country is peaceful because of Article 153 which protects the rights of Bumiputeras who are the majority in this country.

“The reverend needs to remember that Christians are able to practise their religion without worry in this country because of Article 153,” Perkasa secretary-general Syed Hasan Syed Ali said.

Article 153 states that “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.”

Aziz said this meant “the King must also make sure that (safeguarding Bumiputeras) must not be done at the expense of the legitimate interests of other communities.”

“It is not quite right for Perkasa to issue that challenge and bring back the May 13, 1969 issue. The priest never questioned the basis or continuance of Article 153, he merely expressed an opinion on the manner it has been practised.

“This is perfectly acceptable, nothing seditious about it.”