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Article 153 is not about

rights but it is a
constitutional provision
which should not be
Nur Amanina Omar
Asyafiqah Ahmad
Halimaton Saadiah Abu Samah
Amiera Fasya


The term of this special position has been;
the Reid Commision which draft the
constitution initially proposed that Art.153
expire after 15 years unless renewed by the
Parliament of Malaysia.
The Reid Commission specified that the
intent of Article 153 was to address the
imbalance between the Chinese and Malays
in terms of economic equity.
After the May 13 incident in 1969 there was
an argument within the government
concerning whether the special position of
the Bumiputras ought to have a sunset

NEP launch

Rights or Constitution
Read through the Constitution to look for an answer to
these Malay "rights", perhaps the first thing that has
struck you is that familiar terminologies such as Malay
"special rights", Malay "special privileges" or Malay
"rights" are no where to be found in the Constitution.
The provisions favouring Malays are in fact quite
moderate, and certain.
Similarly, those provisions protecting the non-Malays
as a
counter-balance to the special position of the Malays
under the same Article 153 are also surprisingly quite
well conceived and fair.

Controversy over Art.153

unfair and border on outright racism

Early debate
Singapores Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew publicly
questioned the need for Article 153 in Parliament, and
called for a Malaysian Malaysia.
The tension led to the 1964 racial riots. Eventually, the
Tunku decided to ask Singapore, through Lee and some
of his closest confidantes, to secede from Malaysia.
Eventually, Lee agreed to do so, and Singapore
became an independent nation in 1965.
Constitution of Singaporecontains an article, Article
152, that names the Malays as "indigenous people" of
Singapore and therefore requiring special safeguarding
of their rights and privileges as such. However, the
article specifies no policies for such safeguarding.

Art.153 Clause (1)

"It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan
Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and
natives of any of the states of Sabah and Sarawak and
the legitimate interests of other communities in
accordance with the provisions of this Article".
Note the deliberate use of the words "safeguard" and
position" (instead of "special rights" or "special
privileges"). The choice of these words must be
understood in the historical context of the drafting of this
Constitution half a century ago when Malays were
economically and educationally backward in relation to
other races. It was thought fit and proper then that there
must be "safeguards" to protect the Malays from being
swarmed over by other races.

Art.153 Clause (2)

Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall
safeguard the special position of the
Malays by reserving positions "of
such proportion as he may deem
reasonable" in
a) the public service
b) educational facilities and
c)business licenses.

Art.153 Clause (3) & (6)

Yang di-Pertuan Agong may, for
purpose of
fulfilling Clause (2), give general
directions to the relevant
authorities,which shall then duly

Art.153 Clause (8)

There is a separate clause covering the
allocation of seats in tertiary education - Clause
(8A). It says that where there are insufficient
for any particular course of study, the Yang diPertuan Agong may give directions for the
"reservation of such proportion of such places
for Malays as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may
deem reasonable; and the authority shall

Art.153 Clause (5) & (9)

As for the protection of non-Malays against possible
encroachment of their existing interests, there are several
provisions under different clauses in this Article, prohibiting the
deprivation of the existing facilities enjoyed by them, whether in
public service, education or trading licenses. Of these protective
clauses, Clauses (5) and (9) are particularly significant.
Clause (5) consists of one sentence, which reads: "This Article
does not derogate from the provisions of Article 136".
Clause (9) consists of one sentence, which reads: "Nothing in
this Article shall empower Parliament to restrict business or
trade solely for the purpose of reservations for Malays."

Article 136 also consists of one sentence,
which reads: "All persons of whatever
race in the same grade in the service of
the Federation shall, subject to the terms
and conditions of their employment, be

Art.8 Clause (1) & (2)

Clause (1) states:"All persons are equal before the law
and entitled to the equal protection of the law.
Clause (2) states: "Except as expressly authorized by
this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination
against citizens on the ground only of religion, race,
descent or place of birth in any law or in the
appointment to any office or employment under a public
authority or in the administration of any law relating to
the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the
establishing or carrying on of any trade, business,
profession, vocation or employment."

1. The present clamour for Malay "special rights" as sacrosanct racial privileges
of a privileged race, especially under the ideological ambit of Ketuanan Melayu
(Malay the master race), is in conflict with the letters and
spirit of the Constitution.
2. The special position of the Malays as prescribed under Article 153 of the
Constitution is limited in scope to only the reservation of reasonable quotas in
these 3 sectors: public services, educational places and business licenses.
3) Our Constitution provides for only one class of citizenship and all citizens are
equal before the law. The presence of Article 153 does not alter this fact, as it is
meant only to protect the Malays from being "squeezed" by other races by
allowing the reservation of reasonable quotas on certain sectors of national life.