KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 (Bernama) -- The Malay Agenda, a topic that is set to "heat up" the Umno general assembly will determine Malaysia's continued survival as a plural nation comprising people of various races and religious background, said an academician.
Director of the Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation (ATMA), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin said the Malay Agenda that covered special privileges of the Malays as enshrined in the constitution must be viewed as an element for the "survival of the nation".
"The philosophy behind the Malay Agenda lies within the constitution. We have the responsibility to explain matters so that it become clearer," he told Bernama in an interview at his office in Bangi.
Some 4,959 delegates from Umno Youth, Wanita Umno and Puteri Umno will be debating several interesting Malay issues that include politics, economy and social at the Umno general assembly next week.
Shamsul Amri added the economic agenda like the Bumiputera equity and the New Economic Policy (NEP) had been conceptually misunderstood by certain quarters as only meant for the Malays or Bumiputeras while ignoring the other races.
"The NEP itself was born from a lack of understanding of what the constitution says about special privileges of the Malays," said the professor of social anthropology.
The constitution states five special privileges of the Malays: Islam as the official religion (Article 3), the Malay Sultan as the head of state (Article 32), special provision on customary land (Article 90), the Malay language as the national language (Article 152) and the development of Malay education and economy will be assisted and subsidised thorough a quota on employment, scholarship and others (Article 153).
"The special privileges of the Malays are in fact balanced out when the other races were awarded with special privileges namely citizenship (effective immediately since 1957). This is something that the present generation has forgotten, leading to some confusion," he added.
However, the lack of a deadline, schedule and clear target in the constitution on the Malay agenda (economy) resulted in racial riots on May 13, 1969.
Rioting erupted because of the imbalance economy due to the divide and rule policy by the British before independence and led to formulation of the NEP in 1970.
"The NEP was created based on the constitution to safeguard everybody. It is about survival of a nation and not just about Malayan Union," he said referring to Johor Menteri Besar and Johor Umno liaison chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Ghani Othman who said the concept of "Bangsa Malaysia" did not meet the provision in the constitution and was confusing.
The constitution only mentions the Malay race and other races and does not say about the creation of one race called "Bangsa Malaysia".
Umno delegates are expected to bring up issues like Malay equity, the Johor causeway, car import permits (APs), corruption, and the open criticism against Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi by former Premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Issues highlighted by Johor Umno like "Bangsa Malaysia", meritocracy and use of English in the teaching of Science and Mathematics are also expected to be debated keenly.
Shamsul added a lack of understanding by certain quarters on the economic agenda at Umno general assemblies annually made it a hot topic of discussion among Malaysians especially the politicians.
"However, this policy must be continued until the objective is achieved. The delegates must also bear in mind that the economic agenda is not the only Malay agenda on the table as it complements the five Malay special privileges and forms a pillar of the nation together with the other races," he added.
On criticisms by Dr Mahathir, he said the change in leadership also led to change in tempo and this called for more time for adjustments to be made.
"As opposed to Tun Mahathir, Abdullah is not a man in a hurry and always give time to allow the process to take its course.
"A good example is his handling of members' indiscipline where he did not interfere with the Umno disciplinary board that acted against 69 members including then vice president Tan Sri Isa Samad who was punished and accepted the decision without protest," he said.
Shamsul reminded Umno delegates to debate the issues wisely without deviating from the more important agenda - the Malay Agenda.