Monday, August 27, 2007

Civics Lessons For Malaysia (1)

What do the early books written by text-book writers, some of whom were truly idealists, say about Malaysia? Here are some of the many exceptionally well-written history lessons that were ingrained in our young minds when there was a brighter world for all Malaysians then... instead of the sabre-rattling or kris-rattling and zealous religious bomblastic words and actions today.

Before going into the text-books, here something to remind everyone about the formation of Malaysia by Malaya in partnership with Sarawak and Sabah. Before the public proclamation of nationhood there were some exciting actions. It's cited from the autobiography by one of the world's greatest leaders, Lee Kuan Yew's (I say, chaps, hire the good man to solve the woes of this nation's problems such as corruption, financial bailouts and subsequent losses, serious crimes... and unease with Islamic hadhari, Namewee-phobia and racial & sexual discrimination...) The Singapore Story (Lee Kuan Yew. The Singapore Story. 1998: Times Editions, 2003).

At 7 pm on 1 August, the Tunku and Macmillan signed the agreement that would bring Malaysia into being, the ceremony having been delayed for one day so that it would fall into the lucky eighth month of the year for the Tunku. The governors of North Borneo and Sarawak signed on behalf of the Borneo territories. Singapore and Brunei were briefly referred to in a joint statement, although they had loomed large in the two weeks of discussions that preceded the ceremony. The sultan of Brunei held out for better terms. So did we.

The Cobbold Commission's report was released at the same time that the agreement was signed. It was well-written, presenting the case in the best possible light. The commission's assessment of the wishes of the Borneo people was that one-third were strongly in favour of Malaysia's early realisation, without concern about the terms and the conditions. Another third favoured Malaysia but wanted safeguards. The remaining third were divided between those who preferred to see British rule continue for some years and a hard core, vocal and politically active, which will oppose Malaysia on any terms unless it is preceded by independence and self-government. In other words, never. On his part, Cobbold rejected a plea from the Borneo territories for the right to secede during a trial period. This was final (pp 442-3).

Back to our Civics lessons-here's what we learnt in school in the 1970s about our government ...

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, a form of government which is not uncommon in the world today. However, it is a unique system, in so far as her sovereign, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, is elected to office for a term of five years by the Conference of Rulers through a secret ballot. Unlike the constitutional rulers of Great Britain, Denmark, Holland, Greece, Sweden and Norway, who are hereditary monarchs, the Malaysian royal Head of State can only be chosen from one of the nine royal State Rulers.
... The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is a very important component part of parliament. Only after he has given his assent does a bill become law. He may abstain from assenting to any bill presented to him, either by the Dewan Ra'yat or the Dewan Negara for his signature. The grounds for his abstention are limited, the main one being that the bill, if enacted may infringe on the rights of the citizens. In this way, he upholds the Constitution and protects the citizens from a loss of constitutional rights... (Secondary Civics for Malaysians, Book Four... written for Malaysian secondary students in the 1970s).

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