By Clive S. Kessler
Clive S. Kessler is Emeritus Professor of Sociology & Anthropology at The University of New South Wales, Sydney.
“The reverend needs to remember that Christians are able to practise their religion without worry in this country because of Article 153,” Perkasa secretary-general Syed Hasan Syed Ali said.
It is time to put an end to the use of this silly, confused and dishonest argument.
If Article 153 did not exist, there would be no Constitutional basis for any claims concerning the Malay “special position” — note, “special position”, not “special rights” or “political supremacy”/Ketuanan Melayu — in this country.
But — even were there no Article 153 — the civil, social, political, cultural and religious rights of all non-Malays and non-Muslims [along with those of all Malays and Muslims] would still be entrenched, assured and protected under the various “Fundamental Liberties” provisions [Articles 5 to 13] of the Constitution, especially Articles 8, 10 and 11 [providing for Equality; Freedom of speech, assembly and association; and Religion].
In other words, the social, religious and political rights of the nation’s non-Malay and non-Muslim citizen are not simply the creation of Article 153.
They do not simply stand on, and stand to fall with, it.
They stand on grounds, and are amply and irrefutably underwritten as matters of basic principle, elsewhere in the Federal Constitution, quite independent of Article 153 and prior to it.
They do not exist, and did not come into being, simply as some sort of “trade-off”, or generous reciprocal gesture, for the creation and acceptance a notion (an originally very limited and circumscribed notion) of the “special position” of the Malays.
Those fundamental rights are just that, fundamental and basic to the Constitution, for all citizens (not just those of the majority, nor only those of minority status or background).
They are not just an afterthought, a later concession, a brokered trade-off against any specific, or ensemble of specific, Malay claims.
People should stop arguing and talking as if they were.
That kind of assertion is as damaging as it is misconceived.
It is as destructive to the objectives of genuine “nation-building” as it is erroneous, both historically and logically.