KETUANAN MELAYU- INTRODUCTION
Is the term “Ketuanan Melayu” an assertion by Malays of a Malay Constitutional form of government that pre dates the British Westminster derivative thrust on Malaysia at independence? is it a renaissance of Malay culture in politics?
Is it likely that at some future date there will be a “Ketuanan Melayu”? the re assertion and the adoption of a wholly Malay Constitution or articles of a pre existing Malay Constitution? is it possible that conventions of a pre existing Malay Constitution will be absorbed or superimposed onto the present Constitution of Malaysia?
ANTI MALAY CAMPAIGNS AND FREE SPEECH
The sentient mind behind a proliferation of anti Malay, anti Muslim blogs in cyberspace is that same old chauvinist imposter of yore, this time dressed in the coat of democracy instead of the Malayan Communist Party.
It is that same mentality and chauvinism which with the aid of the west took over the gem of the peninsula, creating an island nation, relegating its original inhabitants to the ranks of second class citizens.
Malaysia now finds itself in a conundrum, having to balance between the libertarian idea of ‘freedom of expression’, with its duty to maintain interracial harmony, the rights of its citizens, political and economic stability.
These are as concepts and as rights inter linked to each other and to the stability of Malaysia. They are capable of producing a multitude of outcomes. Not all of these necessarily beneficial to political stability or racial harmony in a country as unique as Malaysia is. Especially where freedoms are used to vilify a majority on the basis of their race, their religion and their creed.
KETUANAN MELAYU- A RENAISSANCE OF MALAY POLITICAL CULTURE
Enter Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein MP and minister of Home Affairs Malaysia. In one sensational act in parliament he staked his claim alongside that of a large constituency in Malaysia to a Malay identity.
Hishammuddin Hussein’s response to the contrived, artificial, political construct of ‘anak bangsa Malaysia’ campaign, albeit in a rather colourful and provocative gesture, has nonetheless been welcomed by many as appropriate and timely to counter a nascent and nefarious anti Malay campaign directed from abroad and channeled through the so called alternative media in Malaysia. Highly symbolic was this act and occasion. Datuk Seri Hussein wielded a Keris, the traditional dagger of Malay warriors, in Parliament proclaiming “Ketuanan Melayu” or the “Rule of the Malay”. Two words when used in conjunction with each other capable of a myriad of interpretations.
The English language media accompanied largely by their Chinese counterparts as if on cue erupted into shrill and bellicose responses of their own with their self serving interpretations of the term Ketuanan Melayu. The Indians as usual were confused.
Ketuanan Melayu as a statement has become the rallying cry for Malays and the catalyst for exposing Malaysia’s superficial inter racial harmony. The very mention of it has seen the unleashing a torrent of abuse directed at the mainly Malay Muslim majority, aided and abetted by the silence of an indolent and incompetent prime minister at the time, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
KERAJAAN – ADAT AND MALAY GOVERNMENT
Long before European settlement in Malaya and imposition of their idea of government by colonial rule, the Malays had enjoyed a sophisticated form of constitutional government for centuries.
It may not have accorded with or borne the characteristics or definition of secular European style constitutions. Kerajaan was nonetheless the framework under which government operated in a Malay Malaya. It was later fused into Islam which provided direction for good governance in social, political and moral conduct in a harmonious society in pre European times.
In the European model church and state have been and are meant to be theoretically separate. In reality European governments have always and continue to be inextricably linked to and influenced by the power of their churches and its theo political ideologies channeled through the instrument of elected government.
A MALAY CONSTITUTION- KETUANAN MELAYU
Much of the Malay constitution in pre colonial times consisted of conventions or their Adats. These were based on Islamic teachings and theocratic political philosophies that accompanied it and influenced its post Hindu era development. Historians observe that much of its implementation in its infancy in pre European times was difficult and is widely debated by local scholars for the conflicts and challenges it presented to an established Malay culture and its traditions. Islam was accepted in Malaya and not imposed on it or resisted as it had been in places such as Moghul India.
Islam in pre European Malaya was not of the radical variant as believed by many. Neither was it imposed by the sword or gun through conquest as was the case with Christianity. The spiritual character of Sufism embellished already existing rich traditions in the peninsula which made Islam more readily acceptable and meaningful to the lives of Malays then as it is now.
The radical character of Arabism and the Wahabi were not then an influence or a deviation as it may be today. Persian and Indian Muslim scholars prevailed as missionaries adding to a rich tapestry of culture, scholarship and philosophy.
Malays enjoyed a sophisticated and ordered relationship at the family and local village levels with their order of rule from patriarch (or matriarch in some states like Malacca) in the family to headmen at local village level, their councils, the Sultans and their governing counsel, army (defenders) law enforcers and at the temporal and spiritual levels, Islam and its educational and religious institutions including Madrassas and Pondoks.
There was an orderly tax regime which taxed commerce, shipping and imposed religious taxes (tithes). Used gold and silver as precious metals had a local currency, conducted civil marriages. These in turn were ordained by the local headman or religious leader (they were either civil or religious), Kerajaan under their constitution controlled the issue of fishing and other resources rights within well defined borders. More importantly there was a system of land tenure and ownership.
KETUANAN ORANG ASING
The so called secular constitutions of the Europeans did not in fact separate church from state. This is a myth conveniently recorded otherwise or omitted altogether from the annals of history. The Portuguese and the Dutch were ruled by Church. In fact the British themselves continue to have a constitutional form of government fused with that of the power of the church.
Their (the British) constitution and idea of the rule of law and other legal theories were nonetheless imposed on Malaya after colonization to the exclusion of the pre existing Malay form. It became recognized as the only constitution and with it came the basis of institutions they established.
Mistakenly believing that they had in fact eradicated any trace of the potency of Malay political culture, the British co authored engineered the NEP with unforeseen outcomes. The empowerment of a Malay majority. A Nationalistic visionary leader in one Dr. Mahathir Mohammed followed a few decades after independence reinvigorating the Malay identity from the benign to the active. The drive to reclaim and re assert a Malay constitution had thus sprouted independently in the minds of the Malays. There is no turning back. It is simply a matter of time and evolution.
SINGAPORE AND MALAYSIA
Singapore’s unsubtle suppression of the Malay identity and the legitimate aspirations and rights of Malays to Ketuanan Melayu may actually have served to nourish that desire to quench that thirst for Ketuanan Melayu even there. It will happen not because of the suppression but inspite of it. As Victor Hugo’s wrote: “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come”.
Ketuanan Melayu is not about Malay rights exclusively to the exclusion of other races, religions and cultures. Ketuanan Melayu is simply is a re assertion of that right of every Malay (nation) to re claim their past, their heritage, and to extract from it whatever it is that is rightfully theirs to appropriate in this day and age. It is part of a process evolution, of decolonization and reclaiming a cultural identity free from the stain of colonization.
To the Malay it is his Adat in whatever just form that may be. In Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein’s words it is Ketuanan Melayu the primacy and paramountcy of all things Malay.
Gopal Raj Kumar