When the mouth moves faster than the brain (Part 2)

That is what I meant by the Social Contract. It was the basis of how Malaya would be granted independence. It was the basis of what the new Constitution would look like. It was the basis of how the Rulers would be retained without any ruling powers. It was the basis of how the many races could share power. It was the basis of how the Malays would give up their majority and grant citizenship to the non-Malays.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

I have noticed that quite a number of you who commented in my article (When the mouth moves faster than the brain) do not appear to have an understanding of what I am talking about when I referred to the Merdeka Agreement or the Social Contract of pre-Merdeka. I think you need to do what I did recently — enroll in Oxford for a course in European history. Then maybe you can understand the concept of a Social Contract and not make so many embarrassing comments that reveal the serious flaws in Malaysia’s education system.

The Magna Carta of 1215 was probably the first Social Contract in ‘modern’ history, which determined that even kings must be subject to the laws of the land — followed by the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, which determined that governments could no longer arrest its citizens without due cause and proper process. Both these documents emerged from the struggles between the King and a group of English lords, which later developed into the modern Parliament of England.

The Glorious Revolution (1688) brought the West its first Bill of Rights guaranteed to the English people by the new monarchs, William and Mary of Orange (1689).

During the 18th century Age of Enlightenment (also known as The Age of Reason), philosophers living under repressive European monarchies began to discuss inherent rights of individuals to form and influence their governments. John Locke (Second Treatise on Government, 1690) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Social Contract, 1762) are the most famous examples of political philosophers whose ideas became foundations for the democratic revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The American Revolution (1775-1781) showed the world that rebellion against a powerful monarchy was possible. In 1789, a revolution against Louis XVI began in France when the king clashed with the Estates-General, an assembly similar to Parliament. The Estates-General wrote The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) based heavily on the American Declaration of Independence (1776).

Now, that is my brief 200-plus-word essay on the history of the Social Contract in Europe over a period of 550 or so years. Okay, so how do we relate all that to Malaysia, Merdeka, and the pre-Merdeka Social Contract?

During the Second World War Japanese occupation of Malaya, various groups emerged that wanted to see an independent Malaya. The Japanese occupied Malaya on the pretext of wanting to free the country from Western colonisation. But all that happened was that we exchanged one colonial power for another.

When Japan lost the war in September 1945, Malaya reverted to a British colony. Eight months later, in May 1946, Umno was born as the platform to oppose the British plan to create the Malayan Union mooted a month earlier in April 1946.

Basically, under the Malayan Union, the Rulers would lose all their powers and citizenship would be granted to non-Malay immigrants and their descendants, especially the ethnic Chinese. The Malays did not agree to this because the economic dominance of the Chinese was seen as a threat to the Malays.

Thus started the independence movement in Malaya — which was not just the monopoly of Umno but many non-Umno groupings were involved as well, the Communist Party of Malaya being one of those many groupings. Two years later, in 1948, the Malayan Union was abandoned in favour of the Federation of Malaya or Persekutuan Tanah Melayu.

The British knew that eventually they would have to grant independence to Malaya. But they would rather that a ‘British-friendly’ Umno lead the newly independent Malayan government — mainly because the British had huge investments in Malaya and they wanted to protect these investments.

The British also had the non-Malays to worry about. What to do with the Chinese and Indians, especially descendants of the immigrants who were Malayan born? They certainly could not be sent back to China or India. China and India would never accept those born overseas. Furthermore, what to do with the Rulers? The position of the Rulers had to be clearly defined.

It took many years of negotiations between the various parties before a solution was hammered out. And this solution had to take into consideration the interests of the various groups. Everyone needed to be protected and to be ensured his/her place under the Malayan sun. And this ‘guarantee’ would have to be a written guarantee in the form of a new Federal Constitution of Malaya.

In a situation where there are so many diverse interests, a compromise needs to be agreed upon. No one can get everything. You win some and you lose some. You need to get as close to a win-win situation as you possibly can.

Malaya would be given independence and Umno can lead that newly independent nation. However, the Malays must share power with the non-Malays. So it cannot be just Umno. It must be Umno, MCA and MIC, the three parties representing the three races.

Hence the British refused to talk to just Umno. They would only talk to the Alliance Party of Umno, MCA and MIC. Before that, Umno, MCA and MIC will have to sit down and discuss how to accommodate the Chinese and Indians in an independent Malaya and how the Malays, Chinese and Indians can share power.

In 1951, the Alliance Party was formed and, four years later, in 1955, it swept all but one seat in the first elections ever held in Malaya. Two years later, in 1957, when it appeared that the Alliance Party was achieving what the British intended (unity between the Malays, Chinese and Indians) the British granted Malaya independence.

The Rulers agreed to give up power and allow power to be transferred to the people through the First Parliamentary election held two years after Merdeka in 1959. Malaya, in turn, would retain a Constitutional Monarchy where the Rulers no longer rule but Parliament and the State Assemblies rule.

The Malays agreed to grant citizenship to the non-Malays and share power with the non-Malays. The non-Malays, in turn, agreed that Islam will be the religion of the Federation and Malay would be its National Language.

In short, Malaya entered into a Social Contract between the Rulers and the Rakyat, the Malays and the non-Malays, the government and the electorate, and so on. It was an agreement on what an independent Malaya would look like and how it was going to function. It was how everyone’s interest would be served and protected.

That is what I meant by the Social Contract. It was the basis of how Malaya would be granted independence. It was the basis of what the new Constitution would look like. It was the basis of how the Rulers would be retained without any ruling powers. It was the basis of how the many races could share power. It was the basis of how the Malays would give up their majority and grant citizenship to the non-Malays.

It is now a done deal, a fait accompli, something that has come to pass and cannot be reversed because it has already ended and no longer exists. The Social Contract is not there anymore. What is there is the product of that Social Contract. And that would be the government that we have, the Constitution that we have, the Constitutional Monarchy that we have, the Parliament that we have, the elections that we have, and so on.

Some of you are saying that this Social Contract is a thing of the past and something that people long gone and dead agreed upon and the present generation should not be bound by it.

Do you know what you are saying? You are saying that we abolish elections, abolish Parliament, give back absolute powers to the Rulers, cancel the citizenship of all the non-Malays, and so on. Are you utterly mad or do you not understand how Malaysia came into being?

Asking to terminate the Social Contract, which resulted in the birth of Malaya, is like asking to terminate your birth. How do we terminate your birth when you are already born? We can only kill you so that you no longer exist.

Aiyah! I hope the next Minister of Education does a better job at reforming Malaysia’s education system. This is so pathetic. Meanwhile, read the piece on the Social Contract below while I go take some painkillers. Sigh….Malaysians….


Social Contract

The idea of the social contract is one of the foundations of the American political system. This is the belief that the state only exists to serve the will of the people, and they are the source of all political power enjoyed by the state. They can choose to give or withhold this power.

The origin of the term social contract can be found in the writings of Plato. However, English philosopher Thomas Hobbes expanded on the idea when he wrote Leviathan in response to the English Civil War. In this book he wrote that in the earliest days there was no government. Instead, those who were the strongest could take control and use their power at any time over others. Hobbes’ theory was that the people mutually agreed to create a state, only giving it enough power to provide protection of their wellbeing. However, in Hobbes’ theory, once the power was given to the state, the people then relinquished any right to that power. In effect, that would be the price of the protection they sought.

Jean Jacques Rousseau and John Locke each took the social contract theory one step further. Rousseau wrote The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right in which he explained that the government is based on the idea of popular sovereignty. Thus the will of the people as a whole gives power and direction to the state. John Locke also based his political writings on the idea of the social contract. He stressed the role of the individual. He also believed that revolution was not just a right but an obligation if the state abused their given power. Obviously these ideas had a huge impact on the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. (http://americanhistory.about.com/od/usconstitution/g/social_contract.htm)