Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Time to consider a new social contract?


1. To start with, I would like to thank Safril, my dear old friend for sharing something worthy of a deep contemplation. He shared with me the writing of Khairy Jamaluddin entitled “Time to consider a new social contract”. It was also highlighted to me that the same writing was published in the “EDGE” newspaper, a widely circulated business newspaper in KL.

2. Indeed I must admit that Khairy , the Malaysia UMNO Youth Chief who is also the MP for Rembau, has a really beautiful mind. In his writing, he is so concerned about the present state of parallelism in Malaysia’s multi-racial society especially in education and in economy that made many young Malaysians lead their lives divorced from others from different ethnic backgrounds He also proposed some solutions on the problem. How many young men in this nation could come out with this kind of thoughts? Not many I presume.

3. When the phrase ‘social contract’ is mentioned many would rush to notion of Malay privilege, Malay language as the national language, Islam as the religion of the Federation and constitutional monarchy as embedded in the Federal Constitution. This may due to repeated mentioning of the phrase by politicians or even by the media that had led people to think only these items are “social contract”. In other words, to some quarters, a social contract is recognition of Malay rights in the country.

4. However, those who have had the opportunity to read the work of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau, all were the proponents of “social contract’ would have understood that the phrase “social contract’ connotes a bigger meaning than recognition of certain communal rights. Social contract is actually an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept corresponding duties to protect themselves and one another from violence and other kinds of harm.

5. In this respect, the whole Federal Constitution (as oppose to only certain parts of it) is a social contract. All legislated legislations and all applicable laws are social contracts. An elected government is a result of social contract and to follow and support the elected government is a social contract.

6. Coming back to issue raised by Khairy, he pointed out that the cause of parallelism is due to the social contract on multi system of education and preferential economic policies (like New Economic Policy). He called for a unitary system of education and clear deadlines to New Economic Policy-type programmes of ethnic preferences. This will put the interests of all Malaysians ahead of any one community, guided by the principles of fairness, justice and unity. The current policies should gradually be phased out and Malaysia shall move towards a purely needs-based policies.

7. In my humble opinion, multi education system and preferential economic policies alone are not social contracts. They are in fact creatures of social contract. Multi education system is allowed to exist because there is a provision in the Federal Constitution on usage of other languages besides Malay language and also due to recognition given to vernacular schools in Education Act. On the similar premise, the New Economic Policy was the affirmative implementation of provisions of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution. To consider having a new social contract would mean to consider revising, amending or even abolishing the existing social contract. Anything short of that would not mean to have the existing social contract replaced by new ones but maybe merely to have a new and fresh perspective in approaching the issues emanating from the existing social contract. So there is no need to be alarmed because Khairy only proposes a new and fresh perspective in overcoming the issues of the existing social contract rather than proposing to have them replaced!

8. It might sound strange yet parallelism is not a surprising issue though. If we may have a brief peek on history, we might understand parallelism evolved from “divide and rule” policy practiced by the Colonial masters. During the colonial era, the Chinese lived worked and died in towns. Indians lived, worked and died in estates while Malays lived, worked and died in villages. Only occasionally did they interface. Gradually these communities get accustomed to living separately that eventually it became a norm. Difference in cultures and religious beliefs contributed in setting these communities further apart. Therefore a mere change in education and economic policies would not effectively bring these communities together.

9. Looking in another perspective parallelism is not as bad as it may sound. Parallelism is not as bad as the apartheid. Parallelism is not as bad as the caste system and it is not as bad as “separate but equal “system (once practiced in the US segregating the black from the white Americans).What is necessary is the acceptance (as opposed to tolerance) of all communities of each other rights, cultures, religious beliefs and privileges as encouraged under 1 Malaysia concept. I also agree on the introduction of purely needs-based policies in socio-economic development and at the same time not to disregard the privileges as guaranteed in the Constitution to ensure justice and justifiable distribution of the economic cake. Again, this is duly promoted under 1 Malaysia concept. What is needed right now that all communities in this country contribute wholeheartedly to ensure this 1 Malaysia concept succeeds. When this is achieved the unity in our own context will be formed, naturally.

10. So, why should we take all the troubles to change the social contract when there is already a workable framework to achieve unity under the existing ones?

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