Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why is a law that promotes equality and fair play deemed anti-Islam?

Last updated on 01/07/2014 - 15:37
01/07/2014 - 17:00

Sonia Ramachandran

PETALING JAYA: The three “unity bills” scheduled to replace the Sedition Act include an anti-discriminatory legislation (draft National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill 2014) which brings into contention “Bumiputera” concessions and quotas in business and whether these would fall under the purview of the intended Acts of Parliament.
National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) law and policy committee deputy chairman Lim Chee Wee reportedly said the government must show such discrimination was protected under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, or that the discrimination was “fair” because it was reasonable and necessary.
Islamic Renaissance Front chairman and director Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, who is also a cardiothoracic surgeon, cited the principle of equality espoused by Article 8 of the Federal Constitution as the basis for saying these “privileges” or “advantages” were never meant to be permanent.
“Article 8 of the Constitution lays down the principle of equality. Any limit to Article 8, the advantages given to the indigenous people, was meant to be a stop-gap measure to aid the economically disadvantaged. It was not meant to be perpetual,” Ahmad Farouk told theantdaily.
Lim had said anything outside the ambit of Article 153 had to be justified by Clause 9.
Article 153 states: “It 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.
In explaining this, Universiti Malaya law faculty associate professor Dr Azmi Sharom in his column in 2010 wrote that affirmative action is not a Malay right.
“Article 153 does not endow a right. What it does is to merely give government the power to take affirmative action despite the overarching ideal of equality which is enshrined in Article 8 of the Constitution.
“To support this contention, we see that Article 8 clearly states that all citizens in this country are equal except for situations specifically provided for in the Constitution. Those ‘specific provisions’ are found in Article 153 and there are not many of them. They include the power to establish quotas for the civil service, permits and licences, scholarships and education.
“Therefore, anything other than these areas should not be subjected to affirmative action,” Azmi wrote.
Article 153(9) states that nothing in this Article shall empower Parliament to restrict business or trade solely for the purpose of reservations for Malays and natives of any of the states of Sabah and Sarawak.
Azmi went on to say that the way current discourse is going, it seemed that even the implementation of Article 153 is not to be questioned at all.
In almost the same vein as Ahmad Farouk, he wrote: “This is surely wrong based both on the meaning of the Constitution as well as the principle held by the founding fathers that Article 153 was an unfortunate but necessary aberration from the ideals of equality and that it was to be used not in perpetuity.”
Of course, Lim’s contention brought about an immediate backlash with Umno Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin urging the government to ensure laws replacing the Sedition Act retain elements that protect the interest of the Bumiputera community.
Muslim groups also hit out at the NUCC over the bills, claiming that the proposed laws were drafted by “Islamophobes” on the council who are “anti-Malay and anti-Islam”.
Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also reportedly said that the NUCC’s proposed laws would lead to meritocracy at the expense of the Malay majority which benefits from decades-long affirmative action policies.
On June 24, Lim had been asked if action could be taken against the government for reserving a Bumiputera quota, for example, in the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) construction project, to which he answered: “It’s possible.”
In August 2013, Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd had said that 30 per cent of the MRT construction packages were reserved for Bumiputera contractors as part of the government’s “national agenda”.
On June 26, Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali called for Petronas chief executive officer Tan Seri Shamsul Azhar Abbas to resign over his statement that the country’s oil and gas revenue does not “belong to the Bumiputera”.
Does the “national agenda” only involve Bumiputeras? Are the other races in the country not part of the nation?
Why is a law that promotes equality and fair play deemed anti-Islam?
Aren’t the huge numbers of Muslim intellectuals in the country and the numerous top scholars who excel in their academic and professional lives proof enough that the Bumiputeras in the country are more than capable of making it on their own without “additional help” from the government?
What’s the point of having an anti-discrimination law that actually discriminates?

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