Will the real “Malay” of Article 153(1) please stand?

Posted on October 12, 2019


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article – Article 153 (1) of the Federal Constitution.

Note that the provision relating to the “natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak” was added after Malaysia was formed.

What was the rationale for this provision?

The Reid Commission report is significant to our understanding of this provision.

The Commission found firstly, that  “the special position of the Malays has always been recognised”, and that there were “four matters with regard to which the special position of the Malays is recognised and safeguarded”, specifically :

  1.  the system of reserving land for Malays
  2. quotas for admission to the public services
  3. quotas in respect of the issuing of permits or licences for the operation of certain businesses; and
  4. scholarships, bursaries and other forms of aid for educational purposes preference is given to Malays

Now, read the entire report with regard to this matter and it will become clear that this “special position” was never intended to be forever.

Lets leave any discussion on how long this was intended to last to another post.

For now, I want to focus on why the Commission thought this was necessary and who it was intended to aid, and most importantly, is it now being abused by those who were never intended to benefit from this intended aid?

 We are of opinion that in present circumstances it is necessary to continue these preferences. The Malays would be at a serious and unfair disadvantage compared with other communities if they were suddenly withdrawn – the Reid Commission.

So, why the “special position” for the Malays living in Malaya at the time of the Commission report, and before?

It would seem that, at the time the Commission report was written up, in 1957,of the 3 main ethnic groups in Malaya, the Malays, numerically at least, were the most disadvantaged in every aspect of life.

The Malays, then, it was felt, needed a helping hand.

Affirmative action, if you will, to uplift a community.

For reasons I hope you, too, will soon see, I am going to henceforth refer to the pre-Commission report Malays as ethnic Malays.

Seen in this light, the special position provision was intended to uplift the lives of the ethnic Malays.

Is there a Malay, other than the ethnic one?

Courtesy of the Federal Constitution, we now have the constitutional Malay.

Article 160(2) of the Federal Constitution, which is an interpretation clause to aid in the interpretation of words appearing therein, defines a Malay as “a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom and –

  • (a) was before Merdeka Day born in the Federation or in Singapore or born of parents one of whom was born in the Federation or in Singapore, or is on that day domiciled in the Federation or in Singapore; or
  • (b) is the issue of such a person”

The definition here makes no reference to ethnicity.

You could be of caucasian origin, profess Islam, speak only Malay and wear only the baju Melayu and nothing else, and satisfy (a) or (b) and, hey presto, you are Malay.

A constitutional Malay.

Could such a constitutional Malay, in all good conscience, stand before a congress purportedly assembled to restore the dignity of the Malays ( ethnic or constitutional, I cannot say ) dishonestly read “special position” as “special rights”, proclaim himself Malay and that Malaysia belongs to him and his ilk?

FB_IMG_1570839307593This has appeared in social media, and appears to be a newspaper clipping. From the contents, if genuine, I would hazard a guess that it was published around 2005.

It quotes Dr M as saying that he has “Indian blood flowing in my veins but then again, no Malay is pure”.

If, as Dr M says, there are no more pure Malays, is it not time to do away with state affirmative action based on ethnicity, and help all Malaysians in need?

If nothing else, this will end the pillage by the constitutional Malays of aid that was never intended for them.

If, however Dr M is wrong, will the ethnic Malays please rise to be counted?


First, I will say again : Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia.

I will also repeat what I wrote in my very first post in this blog.

“Late father was Malay and my mum is Ceylonese. I am Malaysian. My ethnic background is relevant in helping me to understand my cultural make-up but is irrelevant in defining my status as a citizen of Malaysia”.