Social Contract of Malaysia

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"The social contract may once have seemed necessary to keep the peace but now it and the official racism that it is used to justify look indefensible: it is absurd and unjust to tell the children of families that have lived in Malaysia for generations that, in effect, they are lucky not to be deported and will have to put up with second-class treatment for the rest of their lives, in the name of 'racial harmony'."  —  The Economist, on 30 August 2007 [1]
"I think the so-called Social Contract is best described as a vague, unpublished agreement, concealed from public knowledge and made to surface at a convenient time, purely for the BN's political exigency."  —  Hishamuddin Yahya [2]

The social contract in Malaysia refers to the agreement made by the country's founding fathers in the Constitution, and usually refers to a quid pro quo through Articles 14–18 of the Constitution, pertaining to the granting of citizenship to the non-Malay people of Malaysia, and Article 153, which grants the Malays special rights and privileges. The reminder to non-bumiputeras to be grateful for being granted citizenship and a right to live in this country is an insult to nation building.[3] The only way to end this archaic and destructive socio-political model is to reject racial politics [3] which in any case, is inconsistent with the declaration that Islam is the official religion of Malaysia.


2.  Many Malays, typically from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the largest political party in the Barisan Nasional ruling coalition, have used the social contract to defend the principle of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy). These defenders often refer to the Constitution as setting out the social contract, although no reference to a "social contract" appears in therein, and no act of law or document has ever fully set out the social contract's terms.


3.  The Reid Commission which prepared the framework for the Constitution stated in its report that Article 153, the backbone of the social contract, would be temporary only, and recommended that it be reviewed 15 years after independence. The Commission also said that the article and its provisions would only be necessary to avoid sudden unfair disadvantage to the Malays in competing with other members of Malaysian society, and that the privileges accorded the Malays by the article should be gradually reduced and eventually eliminated. However, due to the May 13 Incident, after which a state of emergency was declared, 1972, the year that Article 153 was due to be reviewed, passed without incident.


4.  Another description of the social contract declares it to be an agreement that "Malay entitlement to political and administrative authority should be accepted unchallenged, at least for the time being, in return for non-interference in Chinese control of the economy".[4] The Constitution explicitly grants the Bumiputera reservations of land, quotas in the civil service, public scholarships and public education, quotas for trade licences, and the permission to monopolise certain industries if the government permits. In reality, however, Bumiputera privileges have extended to other areas.

Hishammuddin Hussein threatened the non-Malays not to question the social contract, ketuanan Melayu, or "Malay rights" at the UMNO Annual General Meeting in 2005, the first of three similar acts. He apologized on April 25, 2008 after the Barisan Nasional's dismal showing in the 2008 general election.

5.  At the UMNO General Assembly in 2006, several delegates criticized other members of the government coalition for questioning Ketuanan Melayu. One delegate, Hashim Suboh, made headlines when he asked Hishammuddin Hussein, who had brandished the kris again after the previous General Assembly, when he would be using it.[5] In response to what it termed "[t]he veiled threat of violence... ", The Economist criticized the social contract, calling it "absurd and unjust to tell the children of families that have lived in Malaysia for generations that, in effect, they are lucky not to be deported and will have to put up with second-class treatment for the rest of their lives, in the name of 'racial harmony'", and called policies based on the social contract, "official racism". [6] Could this opposing view be due to the fact that Western values are different from Islamic values?


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