Understanding the Rukunegara & the Social Contract

Understanding the
RUKUNEGARA & the Social
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
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
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
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)
Every one is tasked with duty of national consolidation
Policies must be sound, dynamic, coherent and coordinated
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
Principles will serve as nexus which will bind us together
constitute our RUKUNEGARA
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
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 &
Maintaining a democratic way of life (democracy and not
an ideological state
Ensuring a liberal approach to her rich &diverse cultural
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
(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
(4) A LIBERAL SOCIETY: members are free to practise and profess
their own religions and customs. Diversity affirmed as an asset and
(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
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
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
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 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
See also Just Farland, J Parkinson Rais Saniman Growth &
Ethnic inequality: Msia’s new economic policy (1990) Chapter
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 &
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
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
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
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
“… 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)
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)
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
“ Justice is the first virtue of Social
institutions as truth is of systems of
thought” (John Rawls, “A Theory of Justice
A well order society is where “ there is “
equality of consideration for all its
members.” (Tawney, “Equality” (1964)).”
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