Under the Malaysian Constitution there is a distinction between “Citizen” and “Malay.” This distinction is provided for under Article 160 (2) in respect of the interpretation of certain expressions used in the constitution.

“Citizen” means a citizen of the Federation. And “Malay” means a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to the Malay custom and …..”

Further the constitution goes on to provide for the “special privileges” and other entitlements under Article 153 and 89 in respect of Malay reservations.

But on an in depth study of the constitution and even if one were to stretch ones imagination to the vertical heights of our picture-making faculty of the mind we will not be able to find  the origin of the term “ Bumiputra” in the constitution.

So, if this term “Bumiputra” has not been constitutionally classified or provided for in the constitution, then it does not have any legal standing and consequently its usage and significance has only casual connotation. Therefore the word “Bumiputra” is only useful as a political tool

If that is the case, how and for what purpose was this casual term coined and effectually put into use.

From 1957 till 1963 this nation was known as Malaya. Then, in 1963 Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaya and a new federation was created as it is now known as Malaysia.

In 1965 when Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore became a pain in the neck and since he represented a Chinese majority from the island, Singapore was expelled from Malaysia.

There is also a commonly held theory that Sabah and Sarawak were brought into the federation by the Malay leaders so that they could retain a Malay majority. And in so thinking, Singapore was kicked out.

This was a strategy which was effectively deployed by the Malay ruling class to protect themselves from any future challenges that may be forth coming from the Chinese section of the society with their vested interest.

At the outset when the term Bumiputra was coined there was a lot of debate when Singapore was a member state of Malaysia and participated in our Parliament. Lee Kuan Yew in his election campaign called for a “Malaysian Malaysia.”

However, it is interesting to note, that just after Singapore was expelled from Malaysia, there was a parliamentary debate in November of 1965 where this issue of the term Bumiputra was raised, again.

The current generation would find it amusing or may have to put on your thinking cap and decide as to what sort of hypocrites you have at the current stage, in government.

You have to take cognizance of the fact that from now on and into the future that we are the masters of our faith and our destiny and not the politicians. Why is it to be so?

Well, the good old Tunku gave a reply to the question which was an aimless verbose of an answer, which means that he said so in more words than was needed.

The Tunku said “the term Bumiputra has no legal meaning except in so far as to denote the natives of the mainland of Malaya and the natives of the Borneo States and it shall include those Chinese and Indians who have been born here for several generations to the natives of Malaysia.”

Now, can you see what was the “subjective intent” of the Prime Minister of Malaysia in 1965 who was the key founding father of the independence of Malaya. (You can go and check the Hansard for Tunku’s remarks.)

Subsequent, to the remarks made by the Tunku in parliament, the Tunku came under pressure to accept only one definition of the term Bumiputra. It was to be that the Chinese and Indians of either peninsula or East Malaysia would not be qualified to be termed as Bumiputra.

For all intent and purpose the British and our founding fathers were fully aware that the Chinese and the Indians had been in Malaya for well over a 100 years before our founding fathers decided to negotiate for the independence of Malaya.

That may have been the reason why Onn Jaafar in 1950 proposed that the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) should open the party’s membership to non Malays. And when the UMNO members rejected Onn’s proposal, he resigned as the president and member of UMNO.

There is one other feature which should not be overlooked, that is,         the word “race” is not a Malayan Concept. The British introduced it because of the “census” requirements. This was owing to the fact that there was a constant flow and an uneven nature of immigration from different parts of China, India, Araiba, the Netherlands East Indies, Siam, Cambodia, Tunqueen and Sambas and supplemented by the arrivals of the Javanese, Bugis and other migrants from the Indonesian archipelago.

There are scholars who have termed it as a “Western racial concept” and on the other hand the “colonial castes” of the various nationalities of the ( British, French, Dutch, Portuguese and others) worked together to forge the idea of “White superiority.”

This is what Rudyard Kipling called the “Great Game”—playing of, in other words, “their” natives, rebellions against one another and, above and beyond this, all priding themselves, to competition with one another, on their particular humaneness, by projecting the image of racism on to the colonial practices of their rivals.

Now after 52 years of attaining our independence our government is still shamelessly  dividing us on racial lines to attain their political objectives. The power is in our hands as the voters to bring about a change that this nation is for all of us and we are Malaysian.

We have to commit ourselves to this “motto”  that “We are the masters of our faith and destiny” and as Rudyard Kipling said “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind” and we can indeed change our government that will be committed to economic growth and competitiveness rather than wasting its efforts on social redistribution.




  1. boscopa Says:

    Yes. I am the author of this post.

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