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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 — In a strongly-worded open letter to the prime minister and federal lawmakers, a student group demanded today the abolishment of the special rights of the Malays and vernacular schools to pave the way forward towards a “better Malaysia”.
Calling themselves Anak Muda Harapan Malaysia (AMHM), the six-member group comprises student activists from Universiti Malaya including its former student council president Fahmi Zainol.
Professing itself to be “a new liberal and moderate movement that seeks to bring all Malaysians together”, AMHM asked Malaysians to be “less sensitive in discussing national matters publicly” before making its bid for meritocracy.
“We truly believe that all Malaysians are equal; Muslim or non-Muslim, Malay or non-Malay,” the group said.
Among its lengthy list of 15 recommendations, AMHM pushed for the establishment of “a neutral and transparent commission” to review the need for pro-Bumiputera policies and amendment of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution which grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong the responsibility of safeguarding the special position of Malays and Sabah, Sarawak natives and “the legitimate interests of other communities”.
“AMHM strongly advocate the abolishment of pro-Bumiputera policies, to be replaced with need-based, without any reference to neither race nor ethnic [sic].
“Pro-Bumiputera policies have clearly failed in distributing wealth equally, as wealth disparity among Bumiputeras are too high despite many state-sponsored economic plans,” it wrote.
Pointing out the discrepancies in the measurement of Malay success, it said studies have shown that 30 per cent equity holding for Bumiputera has long been achieved but the government has rejected the findings.
Such policies also induce “second-class citizen” feeling among the non-Bumiputera, it added.
The group also said the dual-legal system; civil and Shariah creates complications as it discriminates against certain parties in cases of child custodial rights, when a parent converts into Islam or for Muslims seeking conversions.
AMHM called for the abolishment of the Shariah courts but said matters relating to divorce and inheritance for Muslims should be dealt with by a Shariah division within the civil courts.
“AMHM strongly believe that Malaysia is a secular state and the Government should publicly declare Malaysia as a secular state,” it said.
The group also said that there should be public discussions on the question of state-secession such as in Sabah and Sarawak, which is now outlawed.
“AMHM strongly urge the Parliament to amend Article 2 to enable any future secession of states in Malaysia, if approved by a referendum in the referred state.
“Malaysia has seen a precedent in state secession when Singapore formed a sovereign state of its own. However, it was not done through a plebiscite,” the group said.
AMHM also said unity in Malaysia can only persist if there is single-stream education system.
It added however the quality of national schools should be improved and a trilingual policy should be made compulsory for all students.
There is also the need for Article 152 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution to be reinforced as it has witnessed the erosion of the Malay language and even federal ministers are also found to be lacking in the proficiency of the national language, it said.
AMHM also called for the government to declare Malaysia as a secular state as backed by Paragraph 57, Constitutional Proposals 1957 and public statement of Malaysia’s founding fathers; Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Dr Ismail and Tun Hussein Onn.
Taking a leaf out of the US government’s book, the group said the Malaysian government should set up an official web site for petitions on issues and if the threshold of 100,000 online signatures is met, the government should be obligated to respond to the issue.
Apart from Fahmi, the other members making up the group are: Ganeshwaran Kana, Atyrah Hanim Razali, Lee Jin Yang, Zawani Syafiqah Zainal Bahrin and Adam Fistival Wilfrid.