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The UMNO furore over Keng Yaik’s purported call about forgetting the “social contract” is further  proof of failure of 48 years of Malaysian nation building

Speech at the DAP forum on current issues held at Hotel Excelsior, Ipoh
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Ipoh, Monday): Malaysia will be celebrating the 48th National Day in 15 days’ time but the UMNO furore over the purported call by the Gerakan President Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik about forgetting the “social contract” is further  proof of the failure of 48 years of Malaysian nation-building, coming so soon after the UMNO Youth keris-waving and demand for the revival of the New Economic Policy.

The Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian today are examples of most extraordinary and unprecedented journalism,  carrying  on the one hand, ferocious attacks on Keng Yaik by UMNO, UMNO Youth and other leaders, calling the Gerakan President “sebagai kacang lupakan kulit, lupa sejarah dan pengkhianat” and his removal from the Cabinet for forgetting the “social contract” agreed by the races when the country achieved independence.

On the other hand, however, they reported  Keng Yaik’s denial that he had called for the forgetting of the “social contract”, clarifying that what he said was that Malaysia cannot succeed in creating a Bangsa Malaysia as long as there are people using the 1957 social contract to silence the non-Malays by reminding them  that they should be grateful for being granted citizenship.

Although UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders have suddenly become champions of the “Merdeka social contract”, it is clear that they themselves do not understand the “Merdeka social contract”, or UMNO  would not have violated one of its fundamental pillars, viz. that Malaysia is a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State, whether ala-PAS or ala-UMNO by endorsing the unconstitutional declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic State – the “929 Declaration! (And most shocking of all, Keng Yaik not only supported such an unconstitutional distortion of the Merdeka “social contract”, he went even further in perverting the “social contract”  by declaring that Malaysia had been an Islamic State even when the nation achieved independence in 1957!)

The UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders’ understanding of the “Merdeka social contract” of Malay special rights are not in accord with history as any reading of the Reid Constitution Commission Report 1957 (Paragraph 163-168) will amply  illustrate.  The Reid Commission, for instance, recommended a review of “the special position of the Malays” in 15 years, a recommendation which had never  been implemented. 

At the UMNO General Assembly last month, the Prime Minister and UMNO President, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi spoke of the challenges of the nation facing a  globalised world and the need for meritocracy, excellence, integrity and the attributes needed to construct a “towering” Malaysia.

In his UMNO Presidential Address in September 2004, Abdullah  warned that a “continuing reliance on crutches will further enfeeble (the Bumiputeras), and we may eventually end up in wheelchairs”.

However, Abdullah’s message in the past two years failed as there were UMNO delegates at the UMNO General Assembly debates last month who justified the need for more “crutches” on the ground that they were already  in “wheelchairs”!

UMNO and Barisan Nasional leaders themselves are in need of  understanding the “Merdeka social contract” reached by the forefathers of the major communities on the attainment of independence of the nation.

In fact, it is time they cherish and focus on the fundamentals of the “1957 social contract” to build a nation which is democratic, just and prosperous – which must mean a truly democratic system of parliamentary government with a first-world Parliament, an independent judiciary, an efficient civil service, a free press and a government dedicated to the principles of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance.

The 48th National Day in 15 days’ time will not be very meaningful if Barisan Nasional and UMNO leaders continue to be the worst examples of Malaysians who have to be properly educated about the essence of  the Merdeka social contract.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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