KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 — Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s interpretation of the “social contract” that focuses on Islam and the Malays would be abhorrent to Malaysia’s founding fathers, a constitutional expert said today.
Lawyer Tommy Thomas said that Zahid, who is also Umno vice-president, has distorted history by claiming that the so-called “social contract” has “four key thrusts”, which the latter listed as the constitutional provisions on Islam as the religion of the federation, Malay rulers, Malay special privileges, and Bahasa Malaysia as the national language.
“Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Ismail and the founding fathers of this nation would be turning in their graves on hearing this version,” Thomas said in a session on the Federal Constitution at the International Malaysia Law Conference here.
“In Zahid’s narration, non-Malays have no place in the social contract. This is a complete distortion. It is partial, selective and inaccurate,” he added.
Thomas also stressed that the Federal Constitution provides safeguards for the minorities so that the majority do not abuse their power.
“Thus, fundamental liberties enshrined in Part II serve more as a protective mechanism for minorities than for the powerful majority,” said the lawyer, citing English philosopher John Stuart Mill who said that a democracy must avoid the “tyranny of the majority”.
Thomas also said that the Malay majority have a “minority complex”, as their leaders keep complaining about their vulnerabilities and being under siege and threat.
“Apart from being wholly irrational, it is wholly untrue,” said Thomas.
“Politicians and other unscrupulous leaders have emphasised the rights and privileges of the majority to such an extent that the protection given to minorities become usury,” he added.
Universiti Malaya law professor Dr Azmi Sharom, who spoke at the same conference, said Malaysia risked losing peace if the Federal Constitution continued to be misinterpreted and misrepresented.
He questioned how Article 3 of the Federal Constitution on Islam being the religion of the federation could be interpreted to mean that Malaysia is an Islamic state, or how affirmative action — merely allowed by Article 153 to contradict Article 8 on equality — could be deemed a “right”.
“If the Constitution is protected and democracy is allowed to flourish, then peace will come as a result because people, if they’re frustrated with an unjust system, that’s when unpeaceful methods rears its ugly head,” said Azmi.
“If we do not have faith in our system, if we do not believe our vote has value, that’s when people turn to other things. Democracy, human rights — that’s the key to peace,” added the academic.