Ex-CJ: Making Rukunegara the Constitution preamble affects position of Malays, Islam

A roundtable talk on the Rukunegara was organised by Perkasa in Kuala Lumpur March 5, 2017. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 — The move to push for the Rukunegara to be made a preamble of the Federal Constitution will affect the position of Malays and Islam, former chief justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad claimed today.

In a speech during a roundtable talk organised by Perkasa, Abdul Hamid said that the move would also cause court judges to make judgments which contravened the Federal Constitution.

“Firstly, the Rukunegara among others, is to achieve greater unity among all the people. We still remember about less than two years ago, an attempt was made via what was known as the National Harmony Bill, supposedly to unite the people. What was allocated? Those that stressed on unity and eradicating discrimination.

“What if after the Rukunegara is made a preamble to the Federal Constitution, which is enforced as the supreme law, and there are parties who argue in court that the admission of only Bumiputera students into UiTM is a discrimination which stands in the way of unity?

“That this breaches the First Clause of the Federal Constitution and therefore it is unconstitutional?” he asked.

Abdul Hamid said that if the Rukunegara was made a preamble to the Federal Constitution, all executive actions and laws which prioritise the Malays, as well as the Sabah and Sarawak Bumiputeras, would become unconstitutional.

He was not present for health reasons, but his speech was read by Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali at the movement’s roundtable talk here, to discuss the proposal brought forward by a group of seven activists calling themselves “Rukunegara Muqaddimah Perlembagaan” (RMP), to push for the Rukunegara or National Principles to be made a preamble of the Federal Constitution.

“Secondly, the Rukunegara states among others, ‘to create a fair society whereby the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together fairly’. What is the difference between this allocation and that in the National Harmony Bill last time?

“This Clause is more direct and can be used to support arguments, like in my first point. In fact, this Clause can be used to challenge Article 153,” he added.

Article 153 of the Federal Constitution grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong responsibility for safeguarding the special position of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak, as well as the legitimate interests of other communities.

It also details ways to do this, such as establishing quotas for entry into the civil service, public scholarships and public education.

Abdul Hamid also questioned the position of Islam, should the Rukunegara be made the basis of the Federal Constitution.

“Thirdly, the word ‘Islam’ is not even mentioned once in the Rukunegara. As far as lifestyle is concerned, what’s stated in only “a democratic lifestyle”. The first principle also only states ‘Believe in God.

“The word ‘God without being followed by the words ‘Yang Maha Esa’, according to the law, can be perceived as ‘singular’ or ‘plural’. Therefore, religion is not only limited to Islam.

“Therefore, when the Rukunegara is made a preamble which can be enforced by law, the arguments that can be put forth is that the Parliament intends to insert this to equate the position of all religion in Malaysia,” he added.

The Rukunegara are five principles introduced by the government following the race riots of 1969. They are: belief in God, loyalty to king and country, the supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law, and civility and decency.

As the name “National Principles” suggest, they are philosophies rather than rules, and contain ideals that the government hoped would encourage national unity in the wake of deadly racial unrest.

RMP kicked off the move last month, to push for the Rukunegara or National Principles to be made a preamble of the Federal Constitution.

The group  hoped to get to support the inclusion of the Rukunegara in the Constitution.

RMP's head Chandra Muzaffar said his team has set a benchmark of up to April 30 to collect as many signatures as possible through its newly created website.

Chandra said the group will also will submit an application with the Rulers Council in hopes that it would advise the Cabinet and Parliament to act accordingly.

Others in the movement include Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, human rights lawyer Firdaus Husni, Professor Madya Dr Madeline Berma who is director of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Tun Fatimah Hashim Women’s Leadership Centre, law professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, Musawah global movement director Zainah Anwar and Professor CT Tan.