What Ketuanan Melayu?

A couple of days ago, Zaid Ibrahim made a speech. At the same time, he also announced that he had tendered his resignation as Senator. Zaid’s speech can be found in full HERE. The StarOnline wrote an article on the speech, and decided to highlight one of the many points brought out in the speech, which they titled “Zaid: Malay Supremacy concept has failed”

His speech, it appears, has ruffled some feathers. From Berita Harian:

KUALA LUMPUR: Selain meminta maaf kepada seluruh umat Melayu, kalangan pakar dan pejuang Melayu mahu bekas Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim yang mengatakan konsep ketuanan Melayu gagal di negara ini diberi pendidikan politik.

Other than apologise to the entire Malay community, experts and Malay fighters(?) want the ex-Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim who said that the concept of Malay Supremacy has failed in this country, to be given political education.

Selain itu, mereka juga menggesa Zaid keluar dari Kelantan dan Malaysia yang ditadbir raja-raja Melayu seiring konsep ketuanan Melayu yang diamalkan di negara ini.

Other than that, they also demand that Zaid leave Kelantan and Malaysia which come under the Malay Rulers in tune with the concept of Malay Supremacy, which is practiced in this country.

Menteri Dalam Negeri, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, berkata semua pihak mesti menerima dan mengakui hak ketuanan Melayu yang termaktub dalam sejarah negara sejak dulu lagi.

Minister of Home Affairs, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said that all parties must accept and admit the right of Malay Supremacy which is written out in the history of this country since a long time ago.

Katanya, bekas pemimpin Umno itu mesti sedar bahawa beliau tidak boleh menyentuh dan menyinggung perasaan orang Melayu kerana ia akan menimbulkan masalah lain.

He said, the former UMNO leader must realise that he cannot touch on and offend the feelings of the Malays as this could bring other problems.

Ketua Umum, Barisan Bertindak Perpaduan Melayu, Osman Abu Bakar, berkata kenyataan Zaid menunjukkan beliau seorang yang bukan saja tidak berjiwa Melayu tetapi sanggup menghina bangsanya sendiri, dan keadaan itu adalah lebih jahat daripada tindakan penjajah.

Osman Abu Bakar (General Leader?), Barisan Bertindak Perpaduan Melayu, said that Zaid’s statement shows that he is not only someone who is not “Malay-spirited”, but also insults his own race, and this is more evil than the actions of colonizers.

“Kami mengutuk keras kenyataannya itu dan akan menulis surat kepada Yang di-Pertuan Agong dan raja-raja Melayu,” katanya.

“We strongly condemn his statement and will write a letter to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers,” he said.

Bernama reports more:

Perlis Umno liaison chief Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim has slammed former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim over his remarks on “ketuanan Melayu” (Malay supremacy) which Shahidan regards as extreme.

“Zaid should repent. Otherwise, he should get out of the ‘rumpun Melayu’ (Malay grouping),” said the former Perlis Menteri Besar, here today.

Shahidan, who is also Arau Umno division chief, said Zaid “is a Malay and should be behaving like a Malay”.

“He should have the Malay spirit and not question ‘ketuanan Melayu’ openly,” Shahidan said when met at the closing of the Perlis Open Cycling Championship 2008 and the Women’s Cycling Championship for the President’s Cup, here.

He said if Zaid continued to question the Malay supremacy concept, then he should no longer be a Malay because as a Malay he should be defending the Malays and not running them down.

In Zaid’s speech, the words “Ketuanan Melayu” only appear 4 times.

I have a difficulty in understanding whether they are actually talking about the same “Ketuanan Melayu” at all. The couple of times that “Malay Rulers” came up in Zaid’s speech, he said nothing but good things and praises. Why then, do these people feel compelled to link Ketuanan Melayu to the Malay Rulers?

It appears to me that the Ketuanan Melayu that Zaid was referring to is actually not the same one that the ‘Malay leaders’ are referring to.

And why do we have people who seem to have this compulsion to ask people to “leave the country if you don’t like it”? Since when did Malaysia become this country that is exclusive for people who ‘think alike’? I thought we celebrate our diversity. Shouldn’t diversity include diversity in thinking as well?

While we’re at it, I’m also having a difficulty in understanding what Shahidan has said. He said Zaid should “behave like a Malay”. And pray tell, how is that supposed to be? Is there a specific way to behave as a Malay? In the same way, me being Chinese and all, is there a specific way for me to behave? I don’t believe so. And if there really IS a specific way to behave as a Malay, I don’t think there should.

Another thing that Shahidan said was that if Zaid continues to question Ketuanan Melayu, then he should “no longer be a Malay”. This is equally nuts. How in the world does anyone stop being a person of a particular race?

If Ketuanan Melayu is about the sovereignity of the Malay Rulers and the YDPA, I say Daulat Tuanku. If Ketuanan Melayu is about keeping and strengthening the Malay language as our National language, I say daulat Bahasa Melayu.

But if Ketuanan Melayu is about shutting up and keeping quiet simply because your thought is not in line with the other leaders of the day (who happen to be Malay), I say it NEEDS to be questioned.

Ketuanan Melayu has been bandied about ever since the General Elections earlier this year. In all honesty, I have never heard of this Ketuanan Melayu thing before. Perhaps I was just not savvy.

My opinion is that Ketuanan Melayu in itself is a controversy of sorts. No one seems to be able to agree on the exact meaning of ketuanan Melayu. Some people say that it is because the Malays are the ‘tuan’ of Tanah Melayu. Some say it’s the Raja-raja Melayu. Some say it’s the keris. Some say it’s the special position given to the Malays in the Constitution. Some say it’s because the Malays are first-class citizens. Some say it’s because the Malays have rights that non-Malays don’t.

So, really, what Ketuanan Melayu?

*Hat-tip to Walski for the links.

7 Comments on “What Ketuanan Melayu?”

  1. bow says:

    What will you expect from a “racist” party leaders public ranting? Of course nothing good for Malaysia will come from them. U-No-Putra as dominate partner in ruling government for 51 years want Malaysia solely belong to them only so they can continue to steal her abundant natural wealth.

  2. anakpakross says:

    Let us rephrase the question. Who is Michelle Yoon? Will it suffice to say she’s a Malaysian? Is she just the leg, the arm, the beautiful face? Surely the obvious answer is the whole package that came into being is she. So too with Ketuanan Melayu. It can be seen from all aspect which is half truth in every sense of the word. ( Minus the first class citizen part which in general I really don’t believe is a reality out there).

    Is Ketuanan Melayu a controversial thing? It is if you make it into one. Let’s look at it another way. Is Chinese Dominance in the malaysian economy a conspiracy of sort? Why, the chinese have been acused to gang up and monopolized the business sector until others could not even penetrate. Ask a malay contractor if they can get their building supply as easily as another chinese contractor and you will see what i mean. So, my point being you can make it into a controversy if you want to see it that way.

    Funny that Ketuanan Melayu has been raised with vengence only recently. It is and old issue but never questioned as it is now. I say the real question is not what is Ketuanan Melayu but rather why people is questioning Ketuanan Melayu, why now?

    What is really the motive behind the question? Is it just to find out as an academic interest? I’m sure many will agree with me that that is not the case. I believe the reason is more to question the idea of Ketuanan Melayu. To challenge the malay dominance in politics. The opposition needed to rally other races support and what better than to play the race card. I find it rather iresponsible.

    Whatever the intention behind the questioning of Ketuanan Melayu, the result towards the nation building cannot be good. Just look at the society and see how much separation has been caused. Almost daily you see MCA, Gerakan and DAP raising similar issues relating to malay rights. UMNO is predictably responding. But off late you see PAS refuting the oppositions on this matter. Will it end up with all the malay parties ganging up, and similarly the non malays? It this worth it?

    While the real main issue if equality for all while recognizing the economic status of each segment of the society. If this is the main concern, why is it necessary to bring the race issue and split the people? Do I need to question Ketuanan Melayu or Chinese Dominance? Do we need to continue propogating this debate while we actually should call for a stop to racial issues and focus on what is best for our nation. We, the people should be smarter and not let the politicians misled us.
    Just for argument’s sake. You mentioned ‘malay dominance in politics’ and ‘malay rights’. What is wrong with questioning malay dominance in politics? The same way we should question why the chinese are dominating the economic pie.

    There is the malay dominance in politics as we see it today because (I presume) people are still typically voting along racial lines. And with the majority of the population Malay, we automatically have that translated into the number of representatives, hence the dominance in politics. But is this something that should never change, or something that cannot be questioned? The way I see it, chances are that the malays will only grow in numbers (population-wise). And if there comes a day that the majority-Malay population votes for a majority-dll government, does that spell the demise of the Malays?

    What I don’t understand when it comes to representation in government, is why there is a need for a majority-Malay government to ‘look after’ Malay rights, and Chinese for the chinese rights and so on and so forth. Like I’ve previously said, I seriously couldn’t care less if there isn’t even a single Chinese in the government, as long as the people-in-power take care of my basic needs and rights as a citizen of Malaysia. (Some people have implied to me that I’m a minority, but I like to believe that things can change). So believe me when I say that I don’t have any trouble with an all-Malay government even. I just don’t see the reason for the strong ‘protection’ of that dominance.

    And about ‘malay rights’. Before I say anything else on this, perhaps you’d like to clarify what exactly these malay rights are.

    I’d agree with you on your other points, like the fact that there are those who are harping on these issues quite viciously, and sometimes they strike me as absolutely pathetic. And you’re right about the need to stop harping on racial issues and concentrate on what is good for our nation. But what is the elusive “it” that is good for our nation?

  3. anakpakross says:

    There is a big difference between questioning ‘malay dominance’ in politics and ‘why should politics be based on race’. The former is full with racist undertones while the later is more focused on political ideas. When we question about ‘malay rights’ are we interested about the malay part of the rights part? My take is that we are making the whole thing into a racial issue while the real matter at hand is the rights, equality, political system ..etc. If we think that making it a racial (malay) issue is fine, then we have to accept that a malay will also be right to make it a ‘chinese’ issue in alot of other matter.

    We talked about ‘malay rights’ as if when it was created out of special treatment whereas we know that the rights attributed are ‘mostly’ due to the economic circumstance they are in. There are other aspects like why bahasa malaysia have to be a bahasa melayu, ugama rasmi ugama islam, raja raja melayu etc. So if we do not differentiate these and lump everything being ‘melayu’ then i say we are wrong. All about melayu is wrong, and melayu must be removed. See how absurd this is.

    Our politcal system since even before independence has been divided along the racial lines. Like it or not we have to accept historical circumstances. And the politcal system has served well until only recently. So, is it the ‘malay’ that has caused this Or is it the politics based on race that you are not please with?

    If you do not have any problem with an ‘all malay’ government then don’t make ‘malay’ the issue. Make ‘equality for all’ the issue and we can get somewhere with that. BUT yes you will be a minorities’ minority in this for certain. As I have remarked earlier, we are seeing an unhealthy development in our political landscape where the racial divide is becoming ever so prominent. Interestingly this is caused by those who are promoting non racial politics while they are commenting from their political parties that themselves are skewed towards one race.

    Should we change? Can we change? Change for the better is always good but change is not the easiest to manage. Is it neceesary to change and is the politics based on race the real problem? Is politics based on race really unable to address issues on equality for all?

    As I see it the malays have been pushed towards a defensive position which is ridiculous. The non malays are harping or race issues rather than equality and there are reasons for that. If we touch on economic dominance then the chance to say more on equality is rather thin.

    I can see this happening. The malays giving up more ‘rights’ and demand the chinese to share the economic cake. We are seeing this claims already recently. Now, will that be the end of it? The malays will question the chinese loyalty. Why do we need chinese road signs, why can’t the chinese speaks good bahasa (even in the dewan rakyat), etc. It’s not about what you or I think, its the majority out there.

    What is it that is good for the nation then? To imagine an ideal situation is easy. One country, one race, equality for all, one language, etc. Language alone we are not united. Look at indonesia if you can differentiate the chinese and the other races. If this we cannot have, the chinese are not willing to speak the language instead demanding chinese road signs, then is the malay wrong to insist on their ‘rights’?
    Thanks for your reply. Much appreciated.

    One country, one race, one language and equality for all is definitely the most ideal situation. And that too is what I hope we can become. That’s why I think that race-based politics won’t work, because there will always be this ‘chance’ for them to backtrack when things are going rough, and bang back on racial sentiments, basically because they are still essentially representing their own race.

    For example, MCA, being a ‘representative of Malaysian Chinese’, no matter how they fight for equality and all that (if they even DO), will always have a choice of reverting back to the slogan of ‘we speak for Malaysian Chinese’ or ‘without MCA, Chinese are doomed’ or ‘we will fight for and protect Chinese rights’, when they want to get votes, and that’s when you get people inciting racial sentiments. Same goes for race-based political parties out there.

    And that is also my beef with Ketuanan Melayu. Non-Malays see it as a threat to their very existence. And it doesn’t help that there are so many people talking about Ketuanan Melayu being a success or failure, but none of us have actually a full grasp of what it actually is or means. And Malays see the questioning of Ketuanan Melayu as a threat to THEIR existence. Especially more so since most of them are still left behind. It’s a roundabout way of the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” thing. Either way, we’re screwed.

    Everyone’s afraid that they will be wiped out or taken over or SOMETHING. And it’s this fear, perceived or otherwise, that’s eating everyone alive.

  4. anakpakross says:

    Life is a metamorphosis. You don’t just fly at birth. Gandi may have wished for a peaceful india but he accepted india as it is and make the best by trying to influence the society to be better. Imagine malaysia on the eve of independence, the society divide along racial margins. Onn Jaafar also wished for a united malaysian but the society was to young to see that. Fifty years on, our society is still divided, maybe more so. We must not stop wishing for the better but we must also be pragmatic in accepting malaysia as it is and find ways to change for the better.

    We may not like MCA speaking just for malaysian chinese. The sad fact is, it is because of their failure to speak for the chinese that majority chinese are moving towards the DAP, making the DAP the voice for the chinese NOT malaysian. Has anything changed? Yes for MCA and DAP but NOT for malaysia.

    You questioned Ketuanan Melayu because of the melayu part. Had you questioned because of equality you would have seen that although people talk about it, at the end the policies that came along benefited not only the melayu. Otherwise if the government had spent billions just to make the 30% margin which they had failed until now, where do you thing the rest of the 70-80% wealth had gone to? Yeah there will be a certain group that benefitted more than is the subject of complaint and I agree with that. But it does not negate the fact that the non malays benefited more ketuanan melayu or not ketuanan melayu.

    So is the malay really worried about the word ‘ketuanan melayu’ or their economic survival? I say you are misguided if you think they give a hoot about the terminology.

    Ultimately what everyone is worried about is their fair share of the economy and their voices heard. And I say we should focus on that, and NOT on some terminology or racial sentiments as some politicians want us to beliecve.

  5. anakpakross says:

    try this;


    Thanks for the heads-up. I’ve only read the first posting on the page, which is about Bahasa Jiwa Bangsa. And may I say that I agree with that argument 100%.

    Perhaps that’s why some people (not unlike yourself) say that I’m the minority of minorities when I say that we should memartabatkan BM. This is when I get into loggerheads with Chinese educationists. But let’s save that for some other time.


  6. eqwan says:

    Not about ketuanan melayu,

    Why 30% for bumiputras?

    Just so you know, before merdeka, the british only give the economic sector to the chinese. It was so hard for the bumiputras to acquire business permits.

    The effect is that it is so hard to penetrate into businesses and the effect is still hear today. The foundation of malaysia economics were given to chinese.

    The imbalances was so much, too much.

    The 30% is to re-establish balance in the economic sector and when it is, the 30% will be abolished slowly but not today.

  7. anakpakross says:

    Su, this is a must read;


    Thanks for the link. I’ve actually read it not too long ago. 🙂

    And I must say that he’s very articulate about his points. Makes good food for thought.

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