Launch New CPI

malaysia-glassRecently on June 30, Utusan Malaysia published an editorial commentary entitled ‘ Pertahan asas Islam, Melayu dan raja’ (Maintain the foundations of Islam, the Malays and the monarchy). Its author Datuk Ahmad Faris Abdul Halim is identified as a current affairs analyst.

There is nothing very remarkable about Datuk Ahmad Faris’s commentary. The view that he puts is not novel in any way but, these days, rather commonplace.

That fact, the familiarity of the position that he advances, is what makes his commentary a matter of significance. That is why some serious consideration of the viewpoint that he promotes is important.

There is nothing very novel about his stance. On the contrary, his commentary provides us, once again, with yet another instance of what, we might say, has become a “national priority growth industry” in political writing.

It offers for our consideration, and also timely criticism, a splendid example of a disturbing recent and current trend.

It offers the troubling spectacle of the now persistent voicing of huge mistruths and the repeated repetition of misconceptions about the Federal Constitution. As a matter of apparent choice, not misinformed accident, it seeks to promote misconception and confusion about the Constitution as the modern Malaysian nation’s founding “social contract”.

It does so not out of ignorance but with a purpose: that of making, or further contributing to the promotion, of those wilfully wrong-headed, misinformed and mischievous views as Malaysia’s “nationally operative truth”.

There is general point here that people need to consider. It is this: that this – by means of the persistent, now even routine, and, of course, officially promoted repetition of these historically erroneous views – is how de facto “constitutional change and amendment” are established and achieved, are entrenched and then “embedded in public consciousness”, in Malaysia these days.

The nation’s constitutional order, that is to say, is modified, reorganized and redefined by this dubious process of the creation of “new political truths” – by the powerfully backed and therefore near uncontestable promotion of binding, transcendent “new verities” about national identity and immanent national destiny that did not exist before; newly contrived “truths” which have no basis in the Constitution as it was promulgated.

De facto amendment to the Constitution and “clarification” of its meaning are now routinely effected not as a deliberative interpretation, following debate and formal legislative enactment.

The process that is now employed is a different one.

The executive simply permits and tolerates, and so “licenses” and sub-contracts out to ideologues (including prominently those at Utusan), the “nationally sacred” work of voicing and promoting certain “revisionist”, even historically heretical, views – in ways that will elicit impassioned, deep-seated, and eventually increasingly widespread, Malay support.

The effect of their repetition is cumulative. New “realities” are created and new, often extravagant expectations are given apparent grounding and legitimacy. History itself is redefined.

By this process of constant repetition and reinforcement, the nation’s history is realigned, and then conscripted into service, in conformity with certain current political purposes and projects.

Ultimately, these radically revisionist and even mischievous views are sustained and upheld not by the courts and parliament but by those whom the officially endorsed “ethno-populist” ideologues lead and orchestrate.

That is to say, by the prospect and implicit threat of mass action by the zealot crowds on the street, by powerfully licensed mob enforcement.

These days the Federal Constitution and its operative public meaning are routinely explained and redefined through repeated exercises in, and recourse to, forceful unilateralist assertion.

Not, that is, through any process of deliberative interpretation, judicial or parliamentary-legislative, but via powerfully orchestrated and officially managed, and then coercive, populist pre-emption. By intimidatory populist enforcement.

And, should these matters ever come to, should they ever be officially deemed to need to be considered by, the courts or parliament, well, by then these new defining verities – the key tenets of the “nation’s operative political doctrine” – will be so well established that they will by then have become political facts that courts and legislators will have to recognize, and important realities of which they will need to have cognizance, as they begin to wrestle authoritatively with matters of historically informed constitutional interpretation.

That is how the views of the radical “ethno-supremacist” minority incrementally gain acceptance as, and become, the “default” position, the powerfully and overriding “operative truth”, for many Malays and hence too, in public political terms under Umno government protection, as simply and uncontestably “the Malay position”, the supposed historic “birthright” of the Malay majority.

This is the unrelenting process, of which Datuk Ahmad Faris has recently provided a fine and representative if unremarkable example, whereby new views of “national purpose” are now articulated and made effective.

In the “favourable” circumstances of the “political arithmetic” created by GE13, it is no longer, as in the more recent past, simply a matter of its incessant official promotion as mere doctrine; going beyond mere doctrinal propaganda, the current process, and the challenge that Umno has now set for itself at this time, leading to GE14, is that of, and nothing less than, “making Ketuanan Melayu real”.

“Malays on top, now and forever; like it or not, that is Malaysia”: this is the authoritative “political truth” that is now being established.


* Horace Pereira is one of our readers.