THE Conference of Rulers’ statement on the social contract, the MCA’s proposal for a second deputy chairperson’s post in the Barisan Nasional (BN) and money politics in Umno were the focus in the Malay dailies from 18 to 24 Oct.
The statement, issued on 16 Oct, was about the special privileges of the Malay rulers, Islam, Malay as the national language, the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of other communities according to the Federal Constitution. The statement said these provisions were known as the social contract. It cautioned that there should not be any attempt to dispute the social contract, as this could lead to disunity and racial strife.
On 18 Oct, Berita Harian‘s editorial, Ketegasan Majlis Raja-Raja mampu elak perpecahan, lauded the statement and called on the public to give heed to the Rulers’ advice.
It said since the number of seats held by the Malays in Parliament dropped after the 8 March general election, the non-Malay parliamentarians had become more vocal in questioning the social contract. It said the rulers’ statement was the right move to try and prevent racial tension.
Law practitioner Salehuddin Saidin wrote in an article, Kuasa Yang di-Pertuan Agong pelihara hak Melayu, in Utusan Malaysia on the same day, that there were provisions in the state and federal constitutions empowering the Rulers to preserve indigenous rights.
He said Article 153 in the Federal Constitution outlined the fundamental functions of the Agong and the rulers as protectors of Malay rights and Islam, without disregarding the legitimate rights of the other races.
He said any effort to defend the social contract should not be seen as racist, but as an effort to uphold the provisions that had always existed in the constitution.
On 19 Oct, Noraini Abd Razak in a Mingguan Malaysia column entitled Menyahut titah Raja-Raja, said the statement was a reminder to Malaysians of the rulers’ role and power under Article 153.
She said the role of the rulers was often not taken seriously by the public, adding that it was timely for the rulers to be proactive in exercising their duties.
The writer also noted a suggestion by constitutional law expert Professor Abd Aziz Bari that the rulers form a body to look into the welfare of the Malays and Islam.
In a report on the same day, the Yang Dipertua of Persatuan Ulama Malaysia, Datuk Sheikh Abdul Halim Abdul Kadir, urged Malaysia’s Islamic movements to unite in defence against any threat to Islam, the Malay race and the institution of the rulers.
On 17 Oct, the MCA’s outgoing Youth chief Datuk Liow Tiong Lai had proposed in his speech at the party’s Youth assembly that the BN form a second deputy chairperson’s post, designated for the MCA.
In a Berita Harian report the next day, BN Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the proposal should be studied carefully and assured that the BN would examine all proposals by its component parties, for the sake of the coalition’s future.
However, in a commentary on the same day, Umno supreme council member Datuk Noh Omar said: “Now isn’t the time for component parties to be making demands, especially now that the BN is going through a re-branding process.”
Utusan Malaysia also reported on the reaction from various Umno leaders. In the report, BN tidak nafikan hak komponen bersuara, on 19 Oct, Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said any amendment of the BN’s existing system to cater to the MCA’s request could result in other component parties making similar demands.
However, he said, “we respect their proposal and it could be discussed in the BN supreme council”.
In another report, Umno Terengganu tolak, the state’s Umno chief Datuk Ahmad Said said the status quo in the BN should be preserved to ensure harmony among the component parties.
The former chairperson of the BN, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, said the BN would be weakened if it failed to handle the component parties’ demands wisely.
In the report, BN lemah jika gagal tangani permintaan komponen – Dr M, he said “entertaining one party’s request would result in dissatisfaction among the rest, and this will not help to strengthen the BN”.
In a 21 Oct report, Cheras Umno division head Datuk Syed Ali Alhabshee criticised the MCA’s proposal as going against the BN’s concept of consensus among the component parties.
Dr Aisar Yee Abdullah wrote in a column, Kenapa baru sekarang MCA bising?, published in Sinar Harian on 22 Oct, that the MCA was blaming Umno for its poor performance in the general election, and making the proposal to regain the community’s votes. However, the writer said this was not the time for the MCA to raise inter-component party problems, but for it to revive the party from within.
In a 21 Oct Berita Harian report, Umno supreme council member Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said several groups had demanded rewards from him for his vice-presidential nominations. He said money politics in the party was worse than in the past and urged the council to take immediate action.
On 22 Oct, both Utusan Malaysia and Sinar Harian reported that Rais had cynically suggested that, given the extent of money politics in the party, the contest for Umno’s top posts be done through a tender process.
That drew a furious response from Perlis Umno chief Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim. In a Sinar Harian report the next day, titled Shahidan anggap saranan Rais menghina Umno, he said the statement was a disgrace to the party. Shahidan added that if Rais’ nomination were done through a tender process, he would place a RM1 bid.