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Malaysia’s success over the past 50 years is not just based on love but also rooted on respect for the 1957 social contract that gave us Merdeka which appears to be unravelling and threatening social cohesion and national unity
by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): Malaysia’s success over the past 50 years is not just based on love but also rooted on respect for the 1957 social contract that gave us Merdeka which appears to be unravelling and threatening social cohesion and national unity. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi believed that national unity, like love, has to be continuously nurtured to be truly successful.
Whilst Malaysians are not surprised at this love-talk by Abdullah following his new marriage to Jeane Abdullah, there must sincerity, balanced and filled with mutual respect. What is the point of constantly declaring your love for national unity when your actions demonstrates biasedness, inequality and injustice.
Malaysians are divided into bumis and non-bumis with special rights for the former determined solely by skin colour and ignoring merit and needs. Non-Malays were made to feel second-class citizens with the implementation of the New Economic Policy(NEP). Even though the NEP was supposed to expire in 1990, it has continued with no end in sight and institutionalizing such discrimination based on race and religion.
On top of existing racial discrimination and social injustices, there is now religious division. Malaysia’s social cohesion is under threat when the 1957 social contract has been questioned, rejected and now perverted into an Islamic state. The 1957 social contract that gave us Merdeka clearly established a constitution with a secular nature but enshrining Islam as the religion of the Federation.
This was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in the Che Omar Che Soh case in 1988 when it declared that the Malaysian Constitution is secular and does not make Malaysia an Islamic state. In that judgment, Chief Justice Tun Salleh Abas ruled that the syariah law was not the basic law of the land and that the constitution was the supreme law. Unless there is a constitutional amendment Malaysia is and never was an Islamic state. And yet Abdullah insists that Malaysia is an Islamic when it is not recognized by law.
Economic progress achieved despite confusing private interests with public policy
Abdullah’s claims that Malaysia’s transformation from an agrarian and divided society to the world’s 17th largest trading economy is due to principles of justice and fairness towards all without distinction as to race or religion. DAP disagrees with this simplistic analysis of our country’s economic progress was caused by government’s policies.
In fact the country’s economic growth was achieved in spite of counter-productive and failed economic polices that confused private interests with public policy. Crucially all economic achievements were underwritten by the discovery of oil and hard work of all Malaysians.
Oil revenues make up 40% of our yearly national income of RM 134,815 million in 2007. This oil revenue has allowed Malaysia to cushion the negative impact from mismanagement, wastage of public funds and corruption scandals that have plagued Malaysian society and would otherwise have crippled Malaysia’s economy.
The real challenge would be in five years time when Malaysia is transformed from a net exporter of oil to a net importer. Would Malaysia still be able to sustain the same levels of economic growth that is no longer driven by the oil windfall? So long as the country continues with divisive policies of the NEP and rejects the secular constitution underlying the 1957 social contract, Malaysians would be wasting time arguing on national unity than on working together to face the global challenges of free trade and open competition.
* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP