Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Non-Malays Should Not Be Citizens?

Written by johnleemk on 10:03:11 am May 23, 2005.
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Note: This is part of a series in which I rebutt remarks I disagree with posted on the malaysia-today.net May 2005 debate.

This article is in response to the following comment:

In response to the posting saying that Malays were not the original inhabitants of this country, I also wish to point out that the non Malays and non natives are unlawful citizens of this country. This is because their forefathers had obtained de jure citizenship of this country through mala fide means.

Their forefathers together with the British colonialists coerced the indigenous people, including the Malays whom they recognised as also the indigenous people of Malaya, into agreeing to giving out de jure citizenship to the non Malays/non natives as a condition precedent to 'merdeka'. To pacify the indigenous people, the British and the non Malays/non natives concocted the special privileges of the Malays and the other indigenous people as if these were to come from their pockets or from China or India. In actuality, the special privileges were (and are) to be derived from the richness and resources of the country itself, not from the non Malays/non natives or from China or India. If the indigenous people had not agreed to the arrangement and really fought for independence, then they would have got the whole of the country's richness and resources (including whatever that were and are deemed to be special privileges) to themselves rather than having to share the said richness/resources with the non Malays/non natives, and no citizenship needed to be granted to the non Malays/non natives.

I therefore contend that the citizenship had been obtained through trickery, cheating and coercion and therefore is null and void.

Ever wonder why in the Singapore Constitution, the Singapore Malays are considered the indigenous people of the island state despite being only a 15% minority while here the 28% or so non Malay/non native minority wants the 55% Malay majority to be treated non indigenous like them? Don't you people think these are sick and insecure people and therefore, are dangerous and malicious?

So essentially, one is saying that non-Malays' citizenship is "null and void" and that they are "sick...dangerous and malicious". Serious charges. Do they have any basis at all? Well, honestly, give me break! Those are some of the most ludicrous things said in apparent sincerity I've ever read!

Was our citizenship obtained through treacherous ("mala fide") means? I don't see how you can get less treacherous than bargaining. If anything, as the author himself admits, it is the Malays' fault for not standing up for what supposedly is theirs, instead of the non-Malays. If the Malays were being held at gunpoint and told, "Do this or die," then yes, there might be a point. But all the British were insisting on was an agreement between the three major races or else no independence. There was no force or coercion.

And the point about obtaining wealth directly from the country's resources seems to be a bit of a non sequitur. Are the Chinese not obtaining their wealth from the country's (human) resources? Are the Indians not obtaining their wealth through Malaysia's (human) resources? No matter who tills the land or operates the grocery store, it is still derived from the land. Likewise, the doctor and lawyer obtain their wealth through the country's resources, that is, the doctor's and lawyer's own intelligence. In the Information Age, people and their knowledge are resources too.

Nobody is arguing that the Malays are receiving their special privileges from "China or India". The problem is, they are receiving excessive special privileges from the Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indians. We are subsidising all Malays, not just the poor kampung] folk, but the rich tycoons and civil servants as well. Even if the Malays were to obtain their special privileges from themselves, you can't have something for nothing. If the Malays were to be taxed heavily, then their subsidies would be useless. Why bother buying a third BMW car if it'll just add to your taxes? The only difference would be this time is it would be the rich subsidising the poor.

The Chinese and Indians did not obtain our citizenship through trickery or coercion. We obtained it because it was bloody common sense. What are you going to do, have 40% of your country made up of immigrants without any rights? You must be kidding me. What would you do with this disenfranchised group? Deport them to Britain/India/China as Idi Amin did with the Indians in Uganda?

Whatever the case, the idea that our citizenship was obtained through treacherous means and therefore void is just stupid. In addition, the idea that the Malays are the only true Malaysians (which is clearly implied, considering benefits are given across the board to all Malays regardless of need; why would a Malay tycoon's children need scholarships not even given on merit?) is just stupid as well. Keep in mind some peranakan Chinese date back to the times of the Malaccan sultanate. Also keep in mind that you don't need to be Malay to love Malaysia. It is high time Chinese and Indians were recognised as citizens of Malaysia with an equal stake in this country, and not just as permanent residents with some extra rights tacked on.

I am not asking for an immediate removal of Malay special rights. While I would welcome it, Malaysia is not ready for this. Instead, I advocate slow withdrawal. Although cold turkey may work with some tobacco addicts, often a slower process of reducing intake works just as well, if not better. A good compromise would be to, if all factors are equal, give the position to the Malay. For example, if applying for a job and every factor (i.e. education, past work experience, etc.) is equal, then give the job to the Malay applicant. Otherwise there is no reason to tolerate mediocrity for the sake of giving face to the Malays. This only weakens the Malays by giving them a crutch, as Pak Lah has said.

The Malays may be the indigenous people of Malaysia, but this does not mean they have the right to exploit their fellow citizens with an equal stake in Malaysia and an equal patriotic spirit. The social contract in 1957 allows for Malay special rights. It does not allow for Malays to abuse their fellow citizens. Singapore recognises Malays as the indigenous people, but it does not recognise them as people who should be waited on hand and foot by reason of this position. Malays have to compete, just like everyone else. But if there's a tie, then let their indigenous position be the tie-breaker.


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