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Understanding the RUKUNEGARA & the Social Contract . By Philip TN Koh Email: philip.koh@mkp.com.my Mah-Kamariyah & Philip Koh Asli National Unity Forum 24 -25 November 2005 . The Past: Guilt & Debts .

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understanding the rukunegara the social contract

Understanding the RUKUNEGARA & the Social Contract

By Philip TN Koh

Email: philip.koh@mkp.com.my

Mah-Kamariyah & Philip Koh

Asli National Unity Forum

24 -25 November 2005

the past guilt debts
The Past: Guilt & Debts

One would gladly struggle free of the past: and rightly so, because it is indeed impossible to live beneath its shadow, because there can never be an end to terror of guilt and violence must continue to be paid with further guilt and violence, but wrongly so, because the past from which one would escape very much lives on. Theodor W. Adorno

historical context of rukunegara
Historical Context of Rukunegara
  • The Trauma of May 13th 1969 birthed a number of Policy initiatives of which RN was one of its chief platform. The other the NEP.
  • RUKUNEGARA was proclaimed on 31st AUGUST 1970 by DYMM YANG DI PERTUAN AGONG
  • Introduction to RUKUN acknowledges multiracial nature of society with diverse social, cultural and economic values with complications with identification of economic groups with race
  • Task of national consolidation to secure a basic consensus on communal issues by the articulation of parameters for discourse & debates: the contestations of politics of recognition be within bonds of civility
preamble to rukunegara 1
Preamble to RUKUNEGARA(1)
  • Every one is tasked with duty of national consolidation
  • Policies must be sound, dynamic, coherent and co-ordinated
  • Activities in political, economic, educational, social and cultural fields geared towards objective of national unity
  • Past memories, triumphs and tribulations guided by evolved principles in course of common history signifying a synthesis of thoughts and feelings enshrined in our Constitution.
  • Principles will serve as nexus which will bind us together constitute our RUKUNEGARA
preamble to rukun 2
Preamble to Rukun(2)
  • Ensuring a liberal approach to (Msia ‘s) rich and diverse cultural tradition (multicultural and pluralistic affirmation not on mono –cultural or bicultural i.e. one hegemonic discourse defining vs. “the Other(s)”
  • Building a progressive society oriented on science & technology
  • Theme: These are the Ends (the teleos of our nation state). These are the conventions which should become “habits of our hearts & minds” and practices of our institutions and curricula
declaration to rukunegra
  • OUR NATION: (the nation state forms the basis of the “imagined community” (Benedict Andersen) aspiring to transcend the “primordial sentiments” (C Geertz) of tribe, ethnic, blood ties and religion being dedicated
  • Greater unity of all her peoples (implication that our social fabric is precarious and has suffered splits & tears)
  • Maintaining a democratic way of life (democracy and not an ideological state
  • Ensuring a liberal approach to her rich &diverse cultural traditions
  • Building a progressive society oriented to modern science & technology
  • We, her people: the concept of peoplehood and that actions will be principled based upon:
  • Belief in God (the mystery of transcendence)
  • Loyalty to King & Country (citizenry subordination to wider sovereignties)
  • Upholding the Constitution (the significance of guided by the Constitution as Grundnorm (normative foundation)
  • Rule of Law: not of men construing law to support power but the law’s integrity
  • Good Behaviour and Morality: eschewing racial chauvinism to civic respect and recognition
commentary to rukun five beliefs

(I) A UNITED NATION: all regard themselves as MALAYSIANS irrespective of race and creed. A polity in which its constituent parts are joined in a federal form is practised consistent with state rights

(2) A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY: national interests prevail over sectional. Fundamental liberties and freedom of political activity and rights shall not be abused to promote racialism or to destroy democracy itself

(3) A JUST SOCIETY: equality for all assistance to weak and disadvantage

(4) A LIBERAL SOCIETY: members are free to practise and profess their own religions and customs. Diversity affirmed as an asset and strength.

(5) A PROGRESSIVE SOCIETY: Embracing Scientific & Technological advances whilst keeping in sight spiritual values

  • God: Islam is the official religion. Other religions may be practised… no discrimination against any citizen (Art.3 of Federal Constitution
  • Loyalty: faithfulness and allegiance to the Ruler
  • Constitution: respect, appreciate the letter, spirit and the historical background of the constitution
  • Justice is founded upon Rule of law
  • Inviolability of a citizen belonging to a particular community and cessation of arrogance or offensive behaviour
  • Objective: The RK is an assertion about the social contract which is fundamental for inter ethnic bargaining and relationship
quo vadis whither the rukun
  • Quo Vadis Rukun Negara?: a mere slogan that has fallen into desuetude (OED “passing into state of disuse”)
  • Is it still emblazon into the interstices of educational programs and national policies?
  • Is there institutional recognition at all levels of governance
  • Is it still a vital part of social construction of our realties (Peter Berger)?
  • Has it not been replaced by fresh programs depending the political leadership?
social contract
Social Contract
  • Definition: Basic idea is that “ What makes some particular system of collectively enforced social arrangements legitimate is that the object of the agreement for the people who are subject to it,” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  • A full approach should take account not only of historical origins and contexts of current arrangements but raise a critique in terms of framing questions and answers for ongoing discourse on legitimacy and rationale for political obligation.
  • Profound and practical questions may be raised from political philosophy perspectives on binding force of historical arrangements, hypothetical bargaining, compatibility of social contract theory with justice as fairness (Rawls) and liberty (Dworkin)
the 1957 merdeka constitution bargain trajectories traumas
The 1957 Merdeka Constitution Bargain: Trajectories & Traumas
  • The Alliance Memorandum & Inter-communal bargain: see Joseph M Fernando, “ The Making of Malayan Constitution (2002) Chapter 3
  • See Bernama feature on 30 May 2005 where two aspects has been emphasized: Primacy of the Malay race and Islam as trade of for citizenship
  • Many Historical antecedents: e.g Abdullah Ahmad speech at Institute of International Affairs, Singapore 30, 1986 on Malay Dominance.
  • See also Just Farland, J Parkinson Rais Saniman Growth & Ethnic inequality: Msia’s new economic policy (1990) Chapter 2
  • Contemporary examples in Parliament recently: use of derogatory term to describe the Indian community and outburst that if MPs questioning certain issues the questioner has no place in this country
constitutional contestations conflicts
Constitutional Contestations & Conflicts

A Window to the tensions beneath the easy rhetoric.

  • Federal issues: Dismissal of Chief Ministers e.g. Ningkan case(1966); the failure of recognition of constitutional conventions e.g Pairin cases (1986)
  • Education: Merdeka University [1982]
  • Secularity and the Syariah: Che Omar [1988],Hudud laws, Conversion &Apostasy(Murtad) (Jamaluddin to Lina Joy) Child Custody Head coverings
  • Separation of Powers: Impeachment of Supreme Courts Judges
a plea for the middle
A Plea for the Middle
  • The Liberal secular nationalist finds her voice being muted and drowned
  • The Institutions vital for the functioning of Liberal democracy needs to be revitalized and defended: a free press/ independent judiciary / vibrant parliament
  • The Broken Middle must be Mended
  • A Plea for the Middle
  • The criteria of public reason must permeate all levels of discourse and actions in so far that “all fundamental questions of political justice and constitutional essentials are expressed in public reasoning by a family of reasonable conceptions that satisfy criterion of reciprocity.” (Rawls) (1999)
principled pluralism
Principled Pluralism
  • The Nature of this Pluralism
  • The mistake of the Critique of Secularity by religionists is that Pluralism is vacuous and atheistic
  • Not necessary so: reasonable and principled form of Pluralism can be developed and a revitalisation of political liberalism can be argued for that inculcate versions of public good and virtues
threats realism
Threats & realism
  • Gravest threats is for actors to embrace extant democratic polity only as modus vivendi (i.e. upon gaining power it would impose its hegemonic faith upon all)
  • In contestations and counter currents: apostasy laws, burial disputes, headscarves and places of worship and freedom to realize religious practices the threat that constitutionalism is negated is ever present there is a gradualist undermining of the social contract
deliberative virtues

“… Respectable moral disagreements…call for deliberation, not denunciation. The willingness to deliberate about our respectable differences is also part of democratic ideal. Multicultural societies and communities that stand for freedom and equality of all people rest upon mutual respect for reasonable intellectual, political and cultural differences… The moral promise of multiculturalism depends on the exercise of … deliberative virtues.” (Amy Gutman, Multiculturalism: Examining Politics of Recognition (1994))

justice as fairness 1
Justice as Fairness(1)

First Principle

  • Each citizen has just claims to a fully adequate scheme of equal liberties, which is compatible with same scheme of liberties for all
justice as fairness 2
Justice as Fairness (2)
  • Social & economic inequalities must satisfy two conditions: (i) they are attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity;(ii) they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society
unity and justice
Unity and justice
  • “ Justice is the first virtue of Social institutions as truth is of systems of thought” (John Rawls, “A Theory of Justice (1971).”
  • A well order society is where “ there is “ equality of consideration for all its members.” (Tawney, “Equality” (1964)).”
a concluding plea rukunegara
A Concluding Plea: RUKUNEGARA
  • Any policy in form of legislation, economic administrative must be subjected to bar of public reason and communicative rationality (Jurgen Habermas). RUKUN meets this criteria.
  • Responsible Citizenry: No longer indigene vs immigrant but citizens acting in civility and in common endeavor to establish a nation founded on principles of equality and justice