Malaysian Studies

Topics: Malaysia, Constitution of Malaysia, Barisan Nasional Pages: 18 (5350 words) Published: August 28, 2012

The salient features of the Constitution of Malaysia are as follows;

1. Special rights for Malays and native from Sabah and Sarawak

2. Fundamental liberties

3. Language

4. Religion

5. Rulers

6. Citizenship

7. Elections

8. Judiciary

9. Finance

10. Relations between the Federation and the States

11. States

12. Federations

13. Powers to counter violence’s and crimes

The Malaysian Constitution is divided into 15 Sections (there are183Articles in the15 sections) and 13Schedules. The above list shows the salient features of the Constitution which covers a variety of issues such as the status of the Malay Rules, religion, fundamental liberties and language. It is clear that the Constitution covers all aspects of the government, judiciary and legislative; and special provisions to meet the needs of different races and religions.

The constitution is unique because it is a result of peaceful negotiations among the various races. The Constitution of Malaysia is a testimony of the plural society in the country.

Looking first at the special rights for Malays and natives from Sabah and Sarawak, one can’t help but understand. Article 160 - Constitutional definition of Malay
Article 153 - Special Position of Bumiputras and Legitimate Interests of Other Communities.


Article 160(2) of the Constitution of Malaysia defines various terms used in the Constitution. It has an important impact on Islam in Malaysia and the Malay people due to its definition of a Malay person. The article defines a Malay as a person who satisfies two sets of criteria: First, the person must be one who professes to be a Muslim, habitually speaks the Malay language, and adheres to Malay customs. Second, the person must have been:

(i) (a) domiciled in the Federation or Singapore on Merdeka Day, (b) born in the Federation or Singapore before Merdeka Day, or (c) born before Merdeka Day of parents one of whom was born in the Federation or Singapore, (collectively, the "Merdeka Day population") or (ii) is a descendent of a member of the Merdeka Day population. As being a Muslim is one of the components of the definition, Malay citizens who convert out of Islam are no longer considered Malay under the Constitution. Hence, the Bumiputra privileges afforded to Malays under Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia, the New Economic Policy (NEP), etc. are forfeit for such converts. Likewise, a non-Malay Malaysian who converts to Islam can lay claim to Bumiputra privileges, provided he meets the other conditions. A higher education textbook conforming to the government Malaysian studies syllabus states: "This explains the fact that when a non-Malay embraces Islam, he is said to masuk Melayu (become a Malay). That person is automatically assumed to be fluent in the Malay language and to be living like a Malay as a result of his close association with the Malays." Due to the requirement to have family roots in the Federation or Singapore, a person of Malay extract who has migrated to Malaysia after Merdeka day from another country (with the exception of Singapore), and their descendants, will not be regarded as a Malay under the Constitution as such a person and their descendants would not normally fall under or be descended from the Merdeka Day Population. Sarawak: It is interesting to note that Malays from Sarawak are defined in the Constitution as part of the indigenous people of Sarawak (see the definition of the word "native" in clause 7 of Article 161A), separate from Malays of the Peninsular. Sabah: There is no equivalent definition for natives of Sabah which for the purposes of the Constitution are "a race indigenous to Sabah" (see clause 6 of Article 161A). Article 153 stipulates that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, acting on Cabinet advice, has the responsibility for safeguarding the special position of the Malays and the indigenous peoples of the Sabah and...

References: Hasnah Hussiin and Mardiana Nordin (2011), Malaysian Studies, Kuala Lumpur: Oxford Fajar
WLA103/03 Unit3, Wawasan Open University, Malaysian Studies CD.
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