Tuesday October 21, 2008
Hakam: Rulers have right to make statement
By SHAILA KOSHY
KUALA LUMPUR: The Conference of Rulers has every right to issue the statement last Thursday on the social contract, the special position of the Malays and the rights of the non-Malays.
“The Conference is entitled and empowered to make a statement for the good of the nation, in this case their message was to respect the rights of both sides,” said Human Rights Association (Hakam) president Malik Imtiaz Sarwar.
“The Rulers do have a role to play in check and balance of the constitutional framework,” he said, citing the involvement in the appointments of the Terengganu and Perlis Mentris Besar by the respective rulers as illustrations of how rulers could function in such a framework.
Agreeing, International Islamic University’s law Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari cited the appointments of Tun Dzaiddin Abdullah as Chief Justice in 2000 and that of Tan Sri Dr Malek Ahmad as President of the Court of Appeal a few years later as other pro-active actions.
While it was rare for them to do so, he said they “must have followed developments closely and viewed the controversies seriously.”
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman said the Rulers felt it necessary to make a statement because they had a duty to ensure the country prospered and developed peacefully in accordance with the Federal Constitution.
“They were merely stating the obvious in the issues they touched, but it is a reminder to all Malaysians not to do anything to affect the peace and harmony,” he added.
Looking at the statement as a whole, Malik Imtiaz said the Rulers were not entering the political realm but were trying to de-politicise the issues at hand.
“Some Malay politicians have accused non-Malays of wanting to take away Malay rights when they were only talking about an equitable and effective poverty reduction programme; that is not inconsistent with Arti-cle 153 (relating to quotas and upliftment policies) of the Constitution, which does not give the government carte blanche to create two classes of society.”
The Rulers had identified “cursory knowledge” of the background of the Constitution and “narrow political interests” as causes for the many disputes that had arisen.
Dr Abdul Aziz agreed groups were easily pitted against each other when they have no sense of history and believe the spin of race-based politicians that each is out to lose their rights.
He said the Pakatan Rakyat in Penang so far has done what they can to ensure everyone, especially the Malays, get what they are entitled to. He also said the Malays had, in a study, indicated they were willing to share.
“The only thing they will not part with is their religion and identity; hence, why they cannot accept apostasy.”
Dr Abdul Aziz said the Rulers’ statement was “carefully and politely worded” and was “not to hurt any political parties. But the message is clear.”
He added that Article 153 was flexible: “if it is implemented transparently - without over zealousness on the part of the politicians and public servants — all would stand to benefit; Malays and the non-Malays.”
The Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) welcomed the Rulers’ assurance that there should be no attempt to test or challenge the social contract.
Its chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said while the CPPS agreed that the social contract - in the form of the Federal Institution - should not be questioned, there should also be honest discussions on any wrongful interpretation and implementa-tion of it.