Is the merit-based scholarship Constitutional?

A Government scholarship scheme will be made available to all, based on merits without taking gender, ethnicity or faith into consideration. The Public Services Department (JPA) would be introducing this scholarship scheme as Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak announced this on Saturday. It will be known as ‘Biasiswa Nasional’ (National Scholarship).

The Star has the story:

Sunday June 28, 2009

Najib: Government to introduce new category of scholarships

By DHARMENDER SINGH

PUTRAJAYA: A new category of Public Service Department (PSD) scholarships will be introduced next year based purely on merit, regardless of race.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he was sure that such a category would be welcomed by all communities, including the Chinese.

“We are restudying the distribution of scholarships under the Public Service Department scheme to introduce a new category.

“We will announce it next year and with the plan to limit the Sijil Pelajaran Malay-sia to 10 subjects, we expect to see a more level playing field,” he said in his speech at a dinner organised by the MCA and the Associated Chinese Chamber of Com-merce and Industry Malaysia here yesterday.

Najib said this would allow Malay-sia’s best students to receive aid to pursue higher studies.

“So the best of the best and the creme de la creme will get aid for higher studies.

“I believe this will be accepted well and it will allow each individual a fair chance to realise his full potential,” he said, adding, however, that he was not “letting the cat out of the bag” just yet about the scheme.

“Like all Malaysians, they also want to see their children have a good education and become successful. All this involves costs,” he said, adding that every race had its needs and if the Government could bring policies that were fair, the Chinese would continue to support the Barisan Nasional.

Najib said the Chinese were not against Malays succeeding or were opposed to efforts to help the bumiputras, but that they wanted policies which looked at the needs of all Malaysians fairly.

“And that’s why I included it in the 1Malaysia concept,” he said, adding that he would also look into MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat’s request for more government land to build Chinese vernacular schools.

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This announcement was made in conjunction with the Chinese Chambers of Commerce dinner. Of late, PM Najib seemed to be introducing a lot of new ‘goodies’, as a political effort to entice the Non Malays, especially the Chinese back towards supporting Government and Barisan Nasional. First it was the dissolution of Ministry of Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development (MECD), deemed as a ‘specific’ ministry to look into the Bumiputra development affairs. Then the liberalization of 27 sectors from equity quota. More liberalization is expected. Of course not with standing, the real game plan behind “1 Malaysia” has not been spelt out yet and everyone is playing the guessing game to inteprete this. Unprecedently during the opening of the Johor State Assembly HRH Sultan Johor reacted adversely on PM Najib’s proposal to look into the development of  the third bridge linking into Singapore, on the east coast of Johor.

The Government should seriously relook into this proposal. This is because, provision for scholarships has been enshrined in the Federal Constitution solely for the Bumiputras only. When scholarships are being dished out based on merit, that means Malay privileges as provided in the Federal Constitution inadvertently has been withdrawn.

The Federal Constitution states clearly that Malay privileges and quota are protected by the HRH Rulers. Any attempt to change, amend or implement it otherwise must be with the consent of HRH Rulers. It seems that PM Najib had acted ultra vires to the Federal Constitution by unilaterally announcing this scholarship scheme based purely on merit.

Excerpts of the Article 153 of the Federal Constitution:

Article 153

  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.
  2. Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, but subject to the provisions of Article 40 and of this Article, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall exercise his functions under this Constitution and federal law in such manner as may be necessary to safeguard the special provision of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and to ensure the reservation for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak of such proportion as he may deem reasonable of positions in the public service (other than the public service of a State) and of scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government and, when any permit or licence for the operation of any trade or business is required by federal law, then, subject to the provisions of that law and this Article, of such permits and licences.
  3. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong may, in order to ensure in accordance with Clause (2) the reservation to Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak of positions in the public service and of scholarships, exhibitions and other educational or training privileges or special facilities, give such general directions as may be required for that purpose to any Commission to which Part X applies or to any authority charged with responsibility for the grant of such scholarships, exhibitions or other educational or training privileges or special facilities; and the Commission or authority shall duly comply with the directions.
  4. In exercising his functions under this Constitution and federal law in accordance with Clauses (1) to (3) the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall not deprive any person of any public office held by him or of the continuance of any scholarship, exhibition or other educational or training privileges or special facilities enjoyed by him.

On the other hand, even if PM Najib wants to create another scholarship on top of the existing one, a totally merit-based scholarship will directly in effect challenge the scholarship which is affirmative action-based. In addition, a precedent is set in which Government scholarship can now ignore the Malay/Bumiputra privileges as stipulated in the Federal Constitution.

The fact is that, PM Najib has not sought the view and sentiment of the Malays, even through UMNO channel before prematurely annoucing this initiative. Whether or not the Malays perceive this initiative as ‘violating their privilege, as fundamental component of the Federal Constitution’ is not known yet. Many already talking about PM Najib is compromising more than previous Leaderships, for support which has yet forth coming. Now, the compromise  is about something which is explicitly provided within the Federal Constitution. Having said all that, BN should not wait until the next General Elections to painfully find out the throughly ‘true’  feelings of the rakyat again, especially the Malays and Bumiputras, which comprises more than 65% of the population. Let the 8 March 2008  12 GE be a lesson learnt, where the Malays themselves turn their back against UMNO and BN.

ls this new initiative meet the objective to entice the Non Malays’ support?

Or has PM Najib exhausted all practical ideas to revive the economy, the real factor that should entice the Non Malays’ support, especially the Chinese, who are known to be materialistically centric?

PM Najib has the fondness to equate nostalgically what he is doing now to his late father, Second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. The visit to China last month and to the Kayan village earlier this month have been highlighted through the media. So was when he attended the FELDA dinner early this month. The ‘Thirteen Million Ringgit’ question is that would Tun Razak compromise so much of the majority’s support and gamble on winning over the minority?

Our bet is, the ‘father of unity and development’ would have done it the other way around. He would even strengthened the interests of the majority via the Federal Constitution. Malay agenda was a very important mission for Tun Razak. As he did for MARA in 1966, under the MARA Act which was enacted in Parliament. Lately, even HRH Rulers are very concerned about the development of the Malays.

Regardless, don’t let the situation escalate till a point-of-no-return, where the Government wholesomely loses the support of all. The Malays would be slighted because they felt their privileges taken away from them and the Government no longer value their support, which had been the mainstay of Perikatan/Barisan Nasional power base since 1955. On the other hand, the Non Malays would still not be satisfied (as they had been despite so many concessions made available to them – like the Chinese schools, which clearly contravene the Education Act 1996 and yet they  feel being treated as ‘2nd class citizens’), regardless what the Government do and have done  for them. As the Malays say it, “Yang dikejar tak dapat, yang dikendong berciciran”.

Published in: on June 29, 2009 at 07:39  Comments (64)