One of the pertinent issues related to the formation of the Federation of Malaya, otherwise known as Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, that has been raised time and again is the 15-year period for a review to be made on the constitutional provision regarding the special position of the Malays.
Paragraph number 164 of the Reid Constitutional Commission Report, published in February 1957, reaffirms the provisions of clause 19(1)(d) of the Federation Agreement, 1948. This clause, now makes the High Commissioner responsible for the safeguarding the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of other communities. The important element in Paragraph number 167 is that, the Commission recommended for a review to be made after 15 years of Merdeka.
According to the report, this arrangement should have been reviewed by 1972.
The stance of the Commission was taken into consideration in the following White Paper on Constitutional Proposals for the Federation of Malaya, published June 1957, when Paragraph number 55 noted that “The Commission recommended that their proposals for continuing the present preferences should be reviewed after 15 years.
However, the White Paper asserted that after careful consideration, the recommendation was not considered necessary to be included as a provision in the Constitution, and proposed that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong should cause a review of the revised proposal to be made from time to time.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd put the matter to rest when moving the Federation of Malaya Independence Bill in the British Parliament on 12 July 1957.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd noted that The Reid Commission found very little opposition in any quarter in Malaya to the continuance of the prevailing system which relate mostly to quotas in the public service, to permits, scholarships, and land reservations, and announced that “Very generally, the proposal to review the quotas after fifteen years has been dropped. The responsibility of the High Commissioner is transferred to the Head of State, but—and it is a genuine safeguard for other races—the Head of State will act on the advice of the Cabinet, and the Cabinet is bound to be sensitive to the feeling of public opinion at any time.”
Dr Fauzi Shaffie is the General Manager of Malaysian Islamic Strategic Research Institute (IKSIM)