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by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

1. Before there was Malaya and Malaysia the peninsular was known as Tanah Melayu, or Malay Land.

2. Saying this alone would result in accusations of being racist.

3. But I need to go back in history if I am going to be able to explain about Malaysia’s social contract.

4. Through treaties signed by the Rulers of the Malay States of the Peninsular the British acquired the right to rule the Malay States. These treaties obviously recognised and legitimised the States as Malay States. No one disputed this. Even the aborigines accepted this as shown by their submission to the rule of the Malay Sultans.

5. Initially the peoples living in the States were divided into indigenous Malays and aborigines who were subjects of the Malay rulers and foreign guests who were not subjects of the rulers. There were no citizenship or documents about citizenship status as in most countries.

6. The foreign guests prospered in the British ruled Malay States and in the British colonies of Penang, Malacca and Singapore. The Malay subjects of the Rulers and the Rulers themselves did not feel threatened by the numbers of these non-Malays and the disparities between the general wealth and progress of the foreign guests and the subjects of the Rulers. They did not think that the foreigners who had settled in the country would ever demand citizenship rights.

7. When Japan conquered the Malay States and the colonies of the Straits Settlements, the Chinese felt insecure as the Japanese were their historical enemies.

8. Many Chinese formed and joined guerilla forces and disappeared into the jungle. When Japan surrendered the Chinese guerillas came out and seized many police stations in the interior and declared that they were the rulers of the country. They seized many people, Chinese and Malays and executed a number of them.

9. Malay villagers retaliated by killing the Chinese in the rural areas. Tension rose and a Sino-Malay war was only averted because of the arrival of British forces. But the ill feeling and animosity between the two races remained high.

10. It was in this tensed situation that the British proposed the Malayan Union which would give the “guests” the right of citizenship as indistinguishable from that of the Malays.

11. The Malays rejected the Malayan Union and its citizenship proposal. They forced the British to return to the status quo ante in a new Federation of Malaya.

12. Only Chinese who were British subjects in the colonies of the Straits Settlements were eligible to become citizens in this new Federation. Naturally the Malay citizens far outnumbered the Chinese Malayan citizens.

13. Chinese leaders appealed to the British, who then persuaded the UMNO President, Dato Onn Jaafar to propose to open UMNO to all races. This proposal was rejected by the other UMNO leaders and Dato Onn had to resign.

14. The British kept up the pressure for the Malays to be more liberal with citizenship for non-Malays.

15. Tunku Abdul Rahman, the President of UMNO decided on a coalition with MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association) and the MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress). In the 1955 elections to the Federal Legislative Assembly, since there were very few constituencies with Chinese or Indian majorities, the MCA and MIC partners had to put up candidates in Malay majority constituencies after UMNO undertook not to contest in these constituencies but to support MCA Chinese and MIC Indian candidates instead.

16. Such was the support of the Malays for the MCA and MIC alliance candidates that they won even against Malay candidates from PAS. The MCA and MIC candidates all won. Only UMNO lost one constituency against PAS.

17. The Tunku as Chief Minister of a self-governing Federation of Malaya then decided to go for independence. The British continued to inisist on citizenship rights for the Chinese and Indians as a condition for giving independence.

18. To overcome British resistance to independence and to gain the support of the Chinese and Indians, the Tunku decided to give one million citizenship to the two communities based purely on residence. One notable new citizen was (Tun) Leong Yew Koh, a former general in the Chinese National Army who was later appointed Governor of Malacca.

19. It was at this stage that the leaders of the three communal parties who had formed the Government of self-governing British Federation of Malaya, discussed and reached agreement on the relationship between the three communities in an independent Federation of Malaya.

20. It was to be a quid pro quo arrangement. In exchange for the one million citizenships the non-Malays must recognise the special position of the Malays as the indigenous people. Certain laws such as the pre-eminence of Islam as the state religion, the preservation of Malay reserve land, the position of the Malay Rulers and Malay customs and the distribution of Government jobs were included in the understanding.

21. On the question of national language it was agreed that Malay would be the national language. English should be the second language. The Chinese and Indians could continue to use their own languages but not in official communication.

22. Chinese and Tamil primary schools can use their languages as teaching media. They can also be used in secondary schools but these have to be private schools.

23. For their part the Chinese and Indian leaders representing their parties and communities demanded that their citizenship should be a right which could not be annulled, that they should retain their language, religion and culture, that as citizens they should have political rights as accorded to all citizens.

24. Much of these agreements and understandings are reflected in the Federal Constitution of Independent Malaya. For everything that is accorded the Malays, there is always a provision for non-Malays. Few ever mention this fact. The only thing that attracts everyone’s attention and made a subject of dispute is what is accorded the Malays and other indigenous people.

25. Thus although Malay is to be the National Language, Chinese and Tamil can be used freely and in the Chinese and Tamil schools. In no other country has there been a similar provision. Even the most liberal countries do not have this constitutional guarantee.

26. The national language is to be learnt by everyone so that Malayan citizens can communicate with each other everywhere.

27. It was understood also that the Chinese language referred in the understanding were the Chinese dialects spoken in Malaysia, not the national language of China. Similarly for Malayan Indians the language was Tamil, not Hindi or Urdu or whatever became the national language of India. However, the Chinese educationists later insisted that the Chinese language must be the national language of China i.e. Mandarin.

28. The official religion is Islam but other religions may be practised by their adherents without any restriction. As the official religion, Islam would receive Government support. Nothing was said about support for the other religions. The non-Malays did not press this point and the Federal Constitution does not mention Government support for the other religions. Nevertheless such support have been given.

29. A quota was fixed for the Malayan Civil Service wherein the Malays would get four posts for every one given to Chinese or Indians. However it was recognised that the professional post would be open to all races as it was never thought possible there would be enough Malays to take up these posts.

30. The result was that in the early years of independence there were more non-Malays in Division 1 than Malays.

31. The Agong or the Rulers of the States should determine quotas of scholarships and licences for Malays. But no one should be deprived of whatever permits or licences in order to give to Bumiputras.

32. The position of the Malay Rulers was entrenched and could not be challenged. There would be a Paramount Ruler chosen from among the nine Rulers who would serve for five years.

33. The rulers were to be constitutional rulers. Executive power was to be exercised by elected Menteris Besar, Ketua Menteri (Chief Minister) and Prime Minister, assisted by members of councils and cabinets. The British practice was to be the model.

34. The most important understanding was the adoption of Parliamentary Democracy with a Constitutional Monarch, again after the United Kingdom model. It should be remembered that the British imposed an authoritarian colonial Government on the Malay State, the power resting with the Colonial Office in London.

35. Before these the Malay States were feudal with the Malay Rulers enjoying near absolute power. Only the elites played a role in State politics. The Malay subjects had no political rights at all. Certainly the guests had no say in politics. Even the Chinese and Indian British citizens had no say though they may be appointed as Municipal or Legislative Councillors.

36. The decision to adopt a democratic system of Government was a radical step in the governance of the Federation of Malaya and of the Malay States. This was agreed to by the leaders of the three major communities as represented by their political parties i.e. UMNO, MCA and MIC. There can be no doubt that these parties represented the vast majority of the three communities in Malaya. The Communists and the other leftists did not signify their agreement to the understanding.

37. The Reid Commission was briefed on all these agreements and understanding so that they will be reflected in the Constitution to be drawn up. All the three parties approved this Constitution after several amendments were made. In effect the Constitution became a contract binding on all the three communities in the Federation of Malaya upon attaining independence in 1957.

38. When Sabah and Sarawak joined the Peninsular States to form Malaysia the social contract was extended to the two Borneo States. The natives of Sabah and Sarawak were given the same status as the Malays. At this time the word Bumiputra was introduced to distinguish the indigenous Malays and Sabah, Sarawak natives from those descendants of foreign immigrants. Because Malay was widely used in the Borneo States there was no difficulty in the acceptance of Malay as the national language. The fact that the natives of the two states are not all Muslims necessitated no change in the Constitution once the word Bumiputra was accepted. But the official definition of a Malay remained.

39. The embodiment of the social contract is therefore the Constitution of first, the Federation of Malaya and then Malaysia.

40. To say it does not exist is to deny the contents of the Constitution which was based upon the acceptance by the leaders of the three communities of the original social contract.

41. All subsequent actions by the Government were the results of this social contract. The fact that the initiators of this social contract and their successors were endorsed by the people in every election reflects the undertaking of the people to honour this social contract.

42. Saying that the social contract does not exist is like saying that Malaysia exists in a vacuum, without a Constitution and laws based on this Constitution.

43. Implementing the social contract requires understanding of its spirit as much as the letter. The social contract is aimed at creating a multi-racial nation that is stable and harmonious. Any factor which would cause instability and result in confrontation between the races must be regarded as incompatible with the spirit of the social contract.

44. For 50 years no one seriously questioned the social contract. Even today the majority of Chinese and Indians and the indigenous Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak accept the social contract. But because Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi basically lost the 2008 election and now heads a weak Government the extremists and erstwhile detractors have questioned the social contract. The Bar Council has now become a political party believing that its expertise in law will exempt it from being questioned as to its credentials and its political objectives.

45. Abdullah’s UMNO is incapable of countering any attack on the social contract. If anything untoward happens Abdullah and UMNO must bear responsibility.



APA KATA Kua Kia Soong | Jul 14, 08 11:50am

‘Social contract’ and ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ are terms introduced by communalist politicians in recent years and it is worth taking note of the origin and the illegitimacy of their coinage.

‘Ketuanan Melayu’ or Malay Dominance can be traced to the infamous speech by Abdullah Ahmad, then UMNO Member of Parliament in Singapore in 1986. (1) The emergence of this concept of a “social contract” which presumes that there was a trade-off between granting citizenship for the non-Malays and special privileges for the Malays by the representatives of the different communities at Independence is hard to trace. Its routine usage today, however, does not mean that its legitimacy should go unchallenged.

This paper sets out to put history in its proper perspective.

Official Malaysian history is written from the ruling class’ point of view. It is the premise of this paper that the Independence agreement has to be understood in class terms – the ruling class in gestation represented by UMNO, MCA and MIC on the one side and the truly anti-colonial forces in the PMCJA-PUTERA coalition representing the workers, peasantry and disenchanted middle class on the other.

Thus the so-called ‘social contract’ would have looked very different if the ‘Peoples’ Constitution’ of the AMCJA-PUTERA coalition had won the day.

In contrast to the standard pluralist analysis of Malaysian society, this paper maintains that divisions along ethnic lines are not based on a difference of culture but on class oppression. Communalism based on ‘bumiputraism’ is an ideology of the ruling class produced under concrete historical circumstances and by social classes. (2)

The pertinence of class analysis is often a bone of contention in academic circles but lawyers in Malaysia will have no problem in seeing the recent cunning Lingam act as class collaboration in flagrante delicto!

This paper emphasises the fact that this so-called ‘social contract’ was the product of colonial manipulation of the constitutional proposals, from the Malayan Union to the final Merdeka Agreement.

Furthermore, it has in fact undergone three transformations since Independence: the post-Independence situation before May 13; post- 1969 Malaysian society, and the attempt to rationalise “Malay dominance” since the Eighties.

The Class Forces at Independence

The UMNO leadership after the Second World War represented the interests of the Malay aristocracy. They were by no means anti-colonial and were prepared to establish a neo-colonial Malaya with British interests intact.

Malaya was still very much dependent on export commodities, largely rubber and tin. The industrial base was narrow and based on these two commodities while the problem of the peasantry since colonial times was still unresolved.

The mass-based anti-colonial movement, on the other hand, had very clear policies based on self-determination, civil liberties and equality.

The workers’ movement (3) was the main threat to colonial interests and the Federation of Malaya proposals culminating in the Merdeka Agreement were intended to deflect the working class revolt by introducing racialism in the Independence package.

The Emergency (1948-60) was as much a crackdown of the workers’ movement as it was a war against the anti-colonial insurrection. The subsequent ‘Alliance Formula’ comprising the Malay aristocratic class and non-Malay capitalist class was designed to deal with the workers’ revolt and put in place a neo-colonial solution. (4)

The post-colonial Malayan economy saw a neglected peasantry while the crucial questions of neo-colonial exploitation, land ownership and size of landholdings of the Malay peasantry (for which the Malay aristocracy was responsible) were deflected into grievances against the non-Malay middlemen.

The Malayan Union proposal by the British in 1946 was opposed by the political left and right in Malaya for different reasons.

The peoples’ anti-colonial forces opposed it because it did not propose self-rule and no elections were contemplated. Singapore was also to be excluded from the federation.

The Malay aristocracy opposed it because they wanted to transfer the sultans’ jurisdiction to the British and abolish the need for royal assent to legislation. The post-war Labour Government in Britain had to grant basic civil rights, including citizenship for the non-Malays as implemented elsewhere in the post-war world, but the Malay elite were opposed to this.

In their demonstrations against the Malayan Union, UMNO carried banners calling for, among other things: “Malaya belongs to the Malays – We don’t want other races to be given the rights and privileges of Malays”; “Reinstate British Justice”; “Father protect us till we grow up…” (5) UMNO’s opposition to the Union had been mainly provoked by the brusque manner in which the British had forced the sultans to sign the treaties.

Progressive MNP

By contrast, the Malay Nationalist Party (MNP) called for, among other things: the right to self-determination of the Malayan people; equal rights for all races; freedom of speech, press, meeting, religion; improving standard of living of all the people; improving farming conditions and abolishing land tax; improving labour conditions; education reform on democratic lines; fostering friendly inter-racial relations. (6)

hari hartal 241007 logo

Selamat Hari Hartal?

On 20 October 1947, the AMCJA-PUTERA coalition launched a general strike and economic boycott or hartal to protest against the constitutional proposals. It brought the country to a complete standstill. It also called on all parties to boycott the Federal Legislative and State Councils.

Realising the different class forces opposing the Malayan Union, the British did a volte face and began to consult only with the Malay elite to the exclusion of all the other interest groups.

The colonial power again used its divide and rule strategy to put the anti-colonial forces on the defensive by tightening up citizenship rules from five to fifteen years’ residence under the Federation of Malaya proposals of 1948; Singapore was to be excluded from the federation and no representative democracy was considered.

The constitutional crisis and labour unrest led to the Emergency being declared on 17 June 1948.

During the period from 1948 to 1960, thousands were deported to China while some 500,000 were displaced into ‘New Villages’. (7)

In looking at the citizenship issue, it is worth noting that by 1947, three-fifths of Chinese and one-half of Indians in Malaya were local born but in 1950, only 500,000 Chinese (one-fifth of the total) and 230,000 Indians had Malayan citizenship. ( 8 )

alliance malaya perikatan 1950 210408 02

Tentang Malayan Union. MERDEKA!

The 1952 Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council elections which saw the successful application of the Alliance formula gave the British colonial power an indication of the political forces to back for the neo-colonial solution. The 1955 federal elections confirmed their choice of the Alliance and when the Alliance reneged on its amnesty proposals for the guerrillas at the Baling talks in 1955, the British were assured of the Alliance’ reliability as the custodians of British interests.

When the Constitutional (Reid) Commission was considering the provision for Malay special privileges, it made the following comments:

“Our recommendations are made on the footing that the Malays should be assured that the present position will continue for a substantial period, but that in due course the present preferences should be reduced and should ultimately cease so that there should be no discrimination between races or communities.” (9)

The proposal to review Malay special privileges after fifteen years by the legislature was opposed by UMNO and they got their way. The jus soli principle was applied for all born after 1957; citizenship was granted to all over 18 years of age, who were born in the country and had lived five out of seven years in the country and knew elementary Malay. For those born outside the country, there was a condition of eight out of twelve years’ residence in the country. (10)

royal malaysia malay  palace guard hulubalang panglima

Pembawa Panji-Panji YDP Tuanku Agong

The Alliance formula of three racially-based parties made up of the Malay ruling class and the non-Malay capitalist class was plainly the neo-colonialist alternative to the truly Malayan nationalist movement grounded in the workers’ movement.

The Alliance won the upper hand mainly through the help of British colonial repression of the mass-based nationalist movement and the failure of the latter to mobilise the Malay peasantry.

Three Transformations

This so-called ‘social contract’ has in fact undergone three transformations since Independence:
(i)    After Independence in 1957, the affirmative action policy was sparingly used according to Article 153;
(ii)    After May 13 in 1971, while the country was still under Emergency decree, Article 153 was amended to introduce the so-called “quota system” allowing wider affirmative action policies but still within stipulated conditions;
(iii)    Then in 1986, Abdullah Ahmad’s infamous ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ speech was actually a declaration of the new status quo, routinising the racial discrimination through the abuse of Article 153 since 1971.

In the 1957 Constitution, Article 153 was framed simply as follows:

“It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article…and to ensure the reservation for Malays of such proportion as he may deem reasonable of positions in the public service…and of scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government and, when any permit or licence for the operation of any trade or business is required by federal law…Nothing in this Article shall operate to deprive or authorise the deprivation of any person of any right, privilege, permit or licence accrued to or enjoyed or held by him…” (11)

Sheridan & Groves commentary on Article 153 is as follows:

“This article had its inspiration in the protective discrimination provisions of the Indian constitution; but it is fundamentally different from those provisions because the largest class in whose favour the discrimination operates in Malaysia is the class which possesses political control, the Malays…” (12)

dipetik daripada



Pada pendapat saya, pendapat Soong ini tidak lebih daripada satu pendapat hasil daripada tidak puas hati dengan kegagalan Parti Komunis Malaya daripada memerintah negara ini yang asalnya milik 100% orang Melayu.

Harus diingat bahawa tanah ini kepunyaan Raja-Raja Melayu dan orang Melayu merupakan rakyat Raja-Raja ini. Apabila penjajah mula menjajah tanah ini, mereka juga membawa masuk orang-orang lain untuk mengerjakan kepentingan mereka. Benar, orang Cina dan India telah lama menetap di sini dan kehadiran mereka turut tercatat dalam Sejarah Melayu (Tun Sri Lanang). Namun, jumlah itu terlalu kecil. Tetapi dengan bantuan penjajah, berjuta-juta pendatang asing dibawa masuk untuk mengerjakan lombong dan ladang mereka. Ada juga yang datang kerana melarikan diri dari tanah asal dek kerana takut dengan tekanan di tempat asal mereka.

Orang Melayu Kelihatan Protes Malayan Union

Apabila hendak merdeka, orang Melayu melalui Raja-Raja Melayu memberi dengan berat hati hak kerakyatan kepada pendatang ini. Orang Melayu yang sangat terikat dengan nilai-nilai Islam ketika itu tidak sampai hati untuk memulaukan pendatang-pendatang ini yang juga banyak memberi sumbangan kepada Tanah Melayu lantas menerima mereka sebagai ‘saudara’ bagi negara baru mereka.

Hasil pakatan murni antara orang Melayu dan bukan Melayu pada ketika itu wujudlah kontrak sosial yang tidak tertulis. Kontrak Sosial ini sebenarnya berat sebelah. Hanya satu pihak yang memberi iaitu ORANG MELAYU. Mereka memberi peluang kepada kaum bukan Melayu untuk menjadi rakyat di negara baru mereka dengan a stroke of pen sahaja. Hak keistimewaan yang termaktub dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan itu sebenarnya adalah

Merenung jauh nasibnya

keistimewaan yang telah lama mereka perolehi sejak dahulu lagi tetapi telah diperkembangkan mengikut arus perubahan zaman kerana mereka adalah rakyat Raja Melayu.

Perjuangan PKM ketika perang Jepun dahulu bukanlah untuk membebaskan tanah ini daripada cengkaman Jepun semata-mata. Ia sebenarnya bertujuan menubuhkan sebuah negara komunis tanpa kerelaan penduduk jati tanah ini. Selepas Jepun menyerah kalah, jangan dilupa kisah 14 hari kekejaman Bintang Tiga yang banyak meragut nyawa terutama orang Melayu. Adakah itu yang disifatkan perjuangan bagi rakyat Tanah Melayu? Ketika darurat ramai nasionalis Melayu menyertai PKM. Mereka ini dikenali sebagai Rejimen Ke-10. Sebenarnya mereka ini terperangkap antara komunis dan British. daripada mati tidak berjuang baiklah mereka menggunakan PKM untuk menentang penjajah. Tetapi kesannya sehingga ke hari ini, PKM (Chin Peng) menyifatkan mereka sebagai komunis yang berjuang untuk menegakkan negara komunis. Padahal ideologi mereka berbeza sama sekali. Chin Peng mahu menjadi seperti Mao di China dan negara ini seperti negara China. Rejimen Ke-10 mahukan negara ini seperti Indonesia yang berjiwa Melayu.

Itulah sebabnya lahir Perlembagaan Rakyat hasil pakatan AMCJA-PUTERA. Memang perlembagaan itu menetapkan bahawa bangsa negara ini adalah Melayu tanpa mengira kaum tetapi di mana letaknya Islam? Lihat sahaja Indonesia yang kedaulatan Islam itu sangat tidak terurus. Bisa sahaja orang Islam berkahwin dengan bukan Islam tanpa sekatan undang-undang walhal perkara itu adalah HARAM! Adakah itu yang kita mahukan? Mungkin Soong tiada masalah dengan perkara ini tetapi bangaimana pula dengan Dr. Burhanuddin al-Helmy? Seorang nasionalis Islam yang ulung.

Banyak lagi yang ingin diperkatakan tetapi, kata-kata tanpa buat adalah sia-sia. Oleh itu wahai orang Melayu, jika anda betul-betul mahukan Malay dominance pastikan anda orang yang terbaik dari segala sudut.

Perlengkapkan dada dengan ilmu. Gagahkan jalan dengan akhak mulia. Kukuhkan diri dengan harta. Tebalkan hati dengan jihad Rasullullah S.A.W. Barulah benar kata-kata Hang Tuah, “Takkan Melayu Hilang Di Dunia”.

Bukan sekadar menghunus keris di perhimpunan ramai tetapi memohon maaf kemudian harinya. Meminjam kata-kata Bush laknat “it is an act of cowardice“.


Raya Puteh

Laman ini merupakan luahan pendapat penulis berkenaan isu-isu semasa negara. Semoga ia menjadi satu ruang perbincangan dan perdebatan sihat antara warga Malaysia




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