Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia) responsibility for “safeguarding"the special position of the ‘Malays’and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities” and goes on to specify ways to do this, such as establishing quotas for entry into the civil service, public scholarships and public education.
Article 153 is one of the most controversial articles in the Malaysian constitution. Critics consider it to create an unnecessary and racialist distinction between Malaysians of different ethnic backgrounds, because it has led to the implementation of affirmative action policies which benefit only the Bumiputra, who comprise a majority of the population. Technically, discussing the repeal of Article 153 is illegal— even in Parliament, although it was drafted as a temporary provision to the Constitution. Despite this prohibition on discussion, the article is heatedly debated both privately and publicly among Malaysians. Opposition groups, especially the Democratic Action Party, are often against the implementation of the article although ostensibly maintaining support for it. Nevertheless, the article is viewed as a sensitive matter by many, with politicians who are in favor or oppose it often being labelled as racist.