ENG to CH Translation: Article 153 on ‘special position’ of the Malays and other natives: The way forward 馬來「特權」非永恆不可變 (Malaysiakini 4 Apr 2010)

Article 153 on ‘special position’ of the Malays and other natives: The way forward
WRITTEN BY ART HARUN
WEDNESDAY, 17 MARCH 2010 11:12
LINK: http://english.cpiasia.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1883:article-153-on-special-position-of-the-malays-and-other-natives-the-way-forward&catid=207:art-harun&Itemid=156

In my article, Visiting the Malay ‘Rights’ (the Bahasa Malaysia version can be read here), I had commented on article 153 of the Federal Constitution. I stated that under its provisions, the Malays in fact do not possess any special ‘rights’.
There is only the special ‘position’ of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. In general, this special position does not confer any right which is recognised by law to the Malays.

Specifically, what is contained in article 153 is the power vested in His Majesty the Yang di Pertuan Agong to ensure that places in the civil service and institutions of higher learning are reserved for the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak as His Majesty deems reasonable.
Additionally, His Majesty is also given the power to reserve a quota for the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak in the allocation of scholarships, and permits or licences required for business and trade. This power is similarly to be exercised by His Majesty as His Majesty deems reasonable.
A few fundamental premises should be examined and borne in mind regarding the provisions contained in article 153. They are:
They do not confer any rights to the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. For example, article 153 does not state that the Malays are entitled (as a matter of rights) to 30% or 50% of scholarships disbursed by the government every year;
The special position is not only conferred to the Malays but also the natives of Sabah and Sarawak;
The power (enabling the quotas) belongs to His Majesty the Yang di Pertuan Agong;
His Majesty is to exercise the powers under article 153 as His majesty deems reasonable. This means the power cannot be exercised arbitrarily.

The injection of the element of ‘reasonableness’ in article 153 brings an element of dynamism in the implementation of the powers under article 153. This is because what was reasonable back in 1969, for instance, may no longer be fitting in 2010 and so forth.
A starting point towards dissipating the dissatisfaction currently felt by all parties (whether the Malays or non-Malays) over article 153 is, I believe, to commence a rational discussion to determine what is held to be ‘reasonable’ at this point.
Thereafter, I feel, the implementation of those facets of article 153 can then be carefully planned by incorporating whatever equitable formula guaranteeing the element of ‘reasonableness’ in time to come.
In this way, there will be no need for all of us to have shouting matches, wield the keris and to ready the arena for a silat fight here and there every time there is doubt that the economic balance between the races falls short of the ideal in our country.
Malaysia has our fair share of the intelligentsia and learned economists. Dr Jomo Sundram, for example, is a senior official the United Nations secretariat. We even have our very own astronaut. We have submarines in our naval fleet. Why don’t we just employ the wisdom and expertise which we possess to resolve this matter of article 153?
Lately, the issue has raised a lot of hackles and even been distorted by those who appear to be ignorant of its provisions. The trite rhetoric daily purveyed by the mass media is bereft of academic credentials and far from factual. The cheap politicking and parochialism emanating from this rhetoric is so pungent as to be nauseating.
One of the popular assertions is that article 153 cannot be amended. This claim is, in my humble opinion, very confusing and merely reflects ignorance of the Federal Constitution.
According to article 159 of the Federal Constitution, article 153 can in fact be amended on the condition that the amendment is supported by two-thirds of the members of the Lower and Upper Houses in its second and third reading. If this support is obtained, the amendment may only take effect after it is approved by the Council of Rulers.
Therefore, if there is anyone who insists article 153 cannot be amended, I would be glad to be proven otherwise.
We as Malaysians should be more sensitive to any efforts made to gain a deeper understanding of various matters because it is only through knowledge can we arrive at the truth. Don’t simply swallow wholesale what people say. On the subject of article 153, there is a lot we can learn from history.

So let’s revisit history on it.
It is common knowledge that a commission was established to draft our constitution. This commission is known as the Reid Commission (named after its head, a renowned English judge, Lord Reid).
In drawing up the Federal Constitution, the Reid Commission was assigned the task to ensure that the position of the Malays was safeguarded. Its report says:

“Our terms of reference require that provision should be made in the Constitution for the ‘safeguarding of the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of other Communities’.”

Nonetheless, the commission found it difficult to give a special preference to any single race permanently because such a special preference is contrary to the principle of equality in the eyes of the law. The Reid Commission reported:

“We found it difficult, therefore, to reconcile the terms of reference if the protection of the special position of the Malays signified the granting of special privileges, permanently, to one community only and not to the others.”

The Alliance front led by Tunku Abdul Rahman had also wanted independent Malaya to confer equal rights, privileges, and equal opportunities to all its citizens regardless of race or religion. Additionally, the Council of Rulers had hoped too that the concept of communalism would be eventually eradicated from the country’s political and economic spheres. In relation to this, the Reid Commission reported:

“The difficulty of giving one community a permanent advantage over the others was realised by the Alliance Party, representatives of which, led by the Chief Minister, submitted that in an independent Malaya all nationals should be accorded equal rights, privileges and opportunities and there must not be discrimination on grounds of race and creed …’ The same view was expressed by their Highnesses in their memorandum, in which they said that they ‘look forward to a time not too remote when it will become possible to eliminate Communalism as a force in the political and economic life of the country’.”

Such was the hope and good intentions of our forefathers in their common struggle to obtain independence from British colonialism. The Federal Constitution was formulated in cognizance of these intentions and aspirations.
This notwithstanding, the Reid Commission was presented with yet another difficulty. What was in actuality the special position of the Malays that was to be preserved? Where was the special position to be found? What guidelines should they have used to determine and establish this special position?
Their search ended when it was discovered that the Malays had always enjoyed a special position even from the start of British colonisation. This special position was already affirmed by the British in their earlier treaties with the Malay rulers. This culminated in the recognition of the said special position in clause 19(1) (d) of the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1948. It was explained as below:

“When we came to determine what is ‘the special position of the Malays’ we found that as a result of the original treaties with the Malay States, reaffirmed from time to time, the special position of the Malays has always been recognised. This recognition was continued by the provisions of cl 19(1)(d) of the Federation Agreement, 1948, which made the High Commissioner responsible for safeguarding the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of other communities.”

They found that the Malays had always enjoyed a special position in four areas:
Reserve land,
Quota in the civil service,
Quota in permits and trading licences, and
Quota in scholarships and education.

When they visited Tanah Melayu to solicit the views of the various parties before proceeding to draft our constitution, the Reid Commission did not meet with any objections from any parties for this special position to remain although there were some quarters that objected to it being extended for a long period of time.
After studying the special position of the Malays and the circumstances of the Malays who at that time were lagging behind the other races in the economic and education sectors, the Reid Commission decided to retain the Malay special position in the constitution that they drafted.
This is the background and rationale behind article 153 that we have with us today. The question now is whether it is true that the provisions of article 153 were meant to be maintained for perpetuity.

馬來「特權」非永恆不可變
當今特約 | 4月4日 下午2點14分
文:阿哈倫;譯:姚文傑
LINK: http://www.malaysiakini.com/columns/128285

我曾在〈探索馬來人「權利」〉一文中評論了聯邦憲法第153條文。我在該篇文章中指出,根據該條文,馬來人其實並沒有任何特別「權利」。
憲法只是闡明,馬來人與沙巴砂拉越土著擁有特別「地位」。總的來說,這個特別地位並未賦予馬來人任何受法律承認的權利。
具體來說,憲法第153條文所涵蓋的是賦予最高元首的權力:在陛下認爲合理的情況之下,最高元首有權確保公共服務、高等教育機構保留名額給馬來人與東馬土著。
此外,在獎學金、准證、執照的分配方面,陛下也有權確保馬來人與東馬土著享有固打名額。同樣地,當最高元首認爲合理的情況之下,陛下有權執行這項權力。

153條文的四個前提
我們必須檢視、牢記憲法第153條文的基本前提:
該條文並沒有將任何權利賦予馬來人與東馬土著。舉例來說,憲法第153條並沒有闡明:馬來人每年有權獲得三成至五成的政府獎學金;
除了馬來人之外,該條文也將特別地位賦予沙巴與砂拉越土著;
最高元首擁有禦准固打的權力;
當最高元首認爲合理的情況之下,陛下有權執行這項權力。換句話說,陛下不可任意執行這項權力。

扶弱政策需有「合理」元素
憲法第153條文中的「合理」元素,爲該條文的執行注入了彈性。理由很簡單,在1969年合理的事情,在2010年或以後都未必合理。若想要消弭馬來人或非馬來人對憲法第153條文的不滿,我們必須理智地討論:在目前的大環境裡,何謂「合理」?
在未來的日子裡,我們必須謹慎地執行憲法第153條文,並將任何公平的方程式納入其中,以確保該條文的執行是「合理」的。
如此一來,每當各族群之間出現經濟地位不平衡的爭議時,大家就無需舉劍激辯了。
大馬擁有相當多的知識份子與經濟學家。舉個例子,佐摩教授目前擔任聯合國秘書處的高級官員;我國甚至出了個太空人、海軍艦隊也有潛水艇。爲何我們不善用我們的智慧與專長來解決憲法第153條文的爭議呢?
這課題在近來惹惱了好多人,有些人不瞭解該條文的規定,結果將之曲解了。媒體每天重複的老套陳述,根本就沒有學術根據,也不符合事實。政治手段如此低劣,從這種老套論述衍生出的目光如豆,實在是讓人覺得反胃。

憲法當然可以在國會被修訂
大家一般普遍主張憲法第153條文是不能被修訂的。據我愚見,這是一個混淆視聽的主張,並且盡顯對憲法的無知。根據憲法第159條文,只要國會上下議院在二讀、三讀時有三分之二的議員支援修訂法案,憲法第153條文其實是可以被修訂的。若得到上下議院三分之二議員的支援,那麼在統治者會議批准之後,該項修訂法案方才生效。
因此,若有任何人堅持認爲憲法第153條文是不可被修訂的話,我很樂意證明他是錯的。
我們嘗試瞭解不同事物的努力,國人應該更謹慎看待之,因爲唯有通過知識,我們才能找到真相。對於別人所說的一切,切莫囫圇吞棗。有關憲法第153條文的議題,我們其實可以回顧歷史,從中學習。
就讓我們一起回顧歷史吧。

擬憲委會瞭解扶弱有違公平
眾所周知,英殖民地政府曾設立一個委員會草擬我國憲法,那就是一個以知名英國法官里德爲名的委員會。
里德委員會(Reid Commission)在草擬我國憲法時,被委以保障馬來人地位的任務。其報告指出:
「我們受到委託,以在憲法中規定「保障馬來人特別地位,以及其他族群的法定權益」。」
然而,該委員會發現到,要永遠特別優惠特定族群,是相當困難的,因爲這違背了法律上的公平原則。里德委員會在報告中指出:
「保障馬來人特別地位若是預示著允許一個族群,而不是其他族群長久享有特別優惠,我們發現到,要調和這項委託是相當困難的。」

統治者會議要種族主義絕跡
以國父東姑阿都拉曼爲首的聯盟,亦要求獨立的馬來亞不分種族、宗教,讓人民享有平等的權利、優惠和機會。此外,統治者會議也希望種族主義最終可以在政治、經濟領域中絕跡。關於這點,里德委員會指出:
「讓一個族群比其他族群更優先,並且長久享有特別優惠,聯盟黨也發現到這是很困難的。由首長領軍的聯盟黨代表也認爲,在獨立的馬來亞,所有國民都享有平等權利、優惠與機會,不容出現以種族、宗教信仰爲由的歧視….」王室成員亦在備忘錄中表達相同的看法:「我們期望在不久的將來,我們可以在我國政治、經濟領域中杜絕種族主義」。」
這就是我國建國先賢向英殖民地政府爭取獨立時的美好願景,聯邦憲法也是在對這些抱負有所認知的情況之下制訂的。
儘管如此,里德委員會面臨另一個難題:在現實中,馬來人有什麼特別地位是需要被保護的?特別地位是存在的嗎?建構這特別地位的準則是什麼?

馬來特殊地位表現在四領域
當該委員會發現到馬來人自從英國殖民馬來亞就享有特別地位之後,他們就停止尋找答案了。這特別地位是英國人和馬來統治者簽署協定時制訂的,結果馬來亞聯邦1948年協定第19(1) (d)條款承認了這項特別地位。該委員會解釋:
「當我們要決定何謂「馬來人的特別地位」時,我們發現到:根據英國跟馬來州屬的協定,馬來人特別地位一直都是受到承認,當局亦不時重申這件事。馬來亞聯邦1948年協定第19(1) (d)條款中延續了這項認可,保障馬來人特別地位與其他族群權益的責任就落在最高專員署身上。」
該委員會也發現到馬來人在這四個領域享有特別地位:
* 保留地
* 公共服務機構的固打名額
* 准證與商業執照的固打名額
* 獎學金與教育領域的固打名額
里德委員會草擬我國憲法之前,曾經拜訪馬來亞以彙集各方意見。雖然有些團體反對長久延續馬來人特別地位,但是里德委員會到訪期間,並沒有碰到任何人反對延續馬來人特別地位。
該委員會繼而考察馬來人特別地位、馬來人在經濟與教育領域落後於其他族群的情況,後來決定在草擬憲法時保留馬來人特別地位。這就是憲法第153條文的歷史背景與根源。現在的問題是,我們必須決定這是不是真的:憲法第153條文中的規定應該永遠維持不變。

編按:本文譯自政策創議中心(CPI)特約馬來撰稿人阿哈倫(Art Harun)的文章〈Article 153 on ‘special position’ of the Malays and other natives: The way forward〉;姚文傑負責翻譯。