Saturday, 2 April 2011

Religious Rights:- Reid/Cobbold Commission, The Secular Fed Consti, Penal Code


"The chairman and the British members of the Cobbold Commission recommended complete religious freedom and
not to make Islam the national religion for Sabah and Sarawak,
but my father and Ghazalie Shafie recommended that the
Malaysian Constitution be based on the 1957 Merdeka Constitution
declaring that the position of Islam being the religion of the Federation
“in no way jeopardizes freedom of religion in the Federation
which in effect would be secular”.
In other words, Malaysia is to be a secular state."


NOTE:- The following is being posted for the sake of information of those who challenge the Constitutional Liberties of those professing religions other than Islam, and their right to non-interference from the Islamic Enactments of various states or the KDN.

With this, it is hoped that those who wish to restrict the usage of Semitic words in the holy scriptures of Non-Muslims religions and consequently restrict the distribution of the Al-Kitab to Non-Muslims, will know that such actions are unconstitutional- and cease from such actions, lest it appears that they violate the Penal Code of Malaysia (Act 574) deliberately.

They should also be aware that Section 298A (7) of the Penal Code, states that-

"It shall not be a defence to any charge under this section
to assert that what the offender is charged with doing
was done in any honest belief in,
or in any honest interpretation of,
any precept, tenet or teaching of any religion."

It is also for the information of those who choose to demonize the Secular nature of the Federal Constitution (and consequently the Federation of Malaysia)- as the source of all ills today, and suggest that the Syariah is the panacea to all these ills.

To these people (and also the spin doctors of certain quarters), I hope a reminder that their rights to participation in the political process is subject to their loyalty to the Spirit of the Federal Constitution, and any treasonous attempt towards the subversion of the Federal Constitution using religious laws or twisted interpretations, would sooner or later push Malaysia into a state of Anarchy, Chaos, poverty and consequently a failed state.


Federation of Malaya Constitutional Proposals

Kuala Lumpur: Government Printer 1957

57. There has been included in the proposed Federal Constitution a declaration that Islam is the religion of the Federation. This will in no way affect the present position of the Federation as a secular State, and every person will have the right to profess and practice his own religion and the right to propagate his religion, though this last right is subject to any restrictions imposed by State law relating to the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the Muslim religion.

59. At present there is no head of the Muslim religion in either Malacca or Penang, though in Penang the Government obtains advice in matters relating to the Muslim religion from a non-statutory Muslim Advisory Board. Since the Governors of these new States may not be persons professing the Muslim religion it is proposed that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong should be the head of the religion in each of these States and that the Constitution of each should include provisions enabling the Legislature to regulate Muslim religious affairs and to constitute a Council to advice the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in such affairs. These Councils will be concerned solely with Muslim religious affairs and they will not be entitled to interfere in any way with the affairs of people of other religious groups; and the position of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as head of the Muslim religion will not carry with it authority to intervene in any matters which are the concern of the State Governments or to require the State Governments to make financial provision exclusively for the benefit of the Muslim community.


The following is from

Malaysia 1956 Social Contract (First Added: 09 August 2007)

From time to time, I saw the word "social contract". I don't remember learning this in history subject (at least the fuller picture) in secondary school. This word appeared frequently when one tries to stress a point. Finally, I found one article that describes a more complete picture.

Dato’ Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik’s keynote address at the Anak Malaysia Convention stirred up discontent among certain groups. He asserted that a political motivated reminder to the Chinese and Indian communities about the granting of citizenship as favour would be an obstacle to building a Bangsa Malaysia. And therefore, such “‘historical burden’ must be removed”
(Aug 13 2005)

This remark, however, was taken negatively by some to be challenging the social contract upon which the nation was founded. Datuk Dr Ma’amor Osman, president of Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia, said the statement “was purposely made to anger the Malays and other bumiputras and belittled Malay supremacy”
(Bernama, Aug 14 2005)

Meanwhile, the UMNO Youth Chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein warned against questioning the issue of social contract.
(Bernama, Aug 15 2005)

There seems to be a shift in interpreting and understanding the social contract. Some believe that there has been a misinterpretation of the history, while others think that social contract has been simplistically reinterpreted based on the premises of Islam as the state religion and the Malay supremacy (Ketuanan Melayu).

Historically, the social contract was originally the negotiation from various groups under the Reid Commission prior to 1957, before the drafting of the Merdeka Constitution.

Law experts have suggested that the contract must be read in light of both Reid Commission and Cobbold Commission reports.


In 1956, a Constitutional Commission headed by Lord Reid came to Malaya for the drafting of a constitution for an independent Malaya. In the process, UMNO, the leading partner of the UMNO-MCA-MIC Alliance, was asked to agree to a ‘common nationality for the whole of the Federation’ (1). That would allow “all persons (in Malaya) to qualify as citizen either by birth or by fulfilling requirements of residence and language and by taking oath of loyalty” (2).

The leaders of the three communal parties agreed to first resolve differences and to speak with one voice to the commission. This was the origin of the social contract between the UMNO and the MCA leaders. MCA acknowledged that the special rights of the Malays should be protected, and UMNO in return conceded that Chinese and other non-Malays should be granted easier citizenship rights based on the principle of jus soli (by birth). The Chinese were also allowed to continue to play a dominant role in economy.

The Reid Commission’s draft proposals were published in 1957 and were then reviewed and amended by a working committee in Malaya, and representatives of the Alliance, the Malay rulers, and the British government at a meeting in London. Thus emerged the Merdeka Constitution (MC). Yang DiPertuan Agong was given the responsibility for safeguarding the “special position of the Malays” and the “legitimate interests of other communities” (3).

Before the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, another consultative process was initiated with North Borneo (now Sabah) and Sarawak in 1962. From this process came forth a social contract (contained in the Cobbold Commission Report) similar to the consensus acquired in 1956-57.

The core of the contract as stated in the memorandum submitted by the Alliance was that Islam was to be the State religion, but the “observance of this principle shall not impose any disability on non-Muslim nationals professing and practising their own religions and shall not imply that the State is not a secular state” (3)

The Merdeka Constitution(MC) provisions evidently provided the framework for the 1963 Federal Constitution. The latter continued to cover the provisions of special rights and privileges of the Malays, national language, and religion without depriving “any person of any right and privilege, permit or license accrued to or enjoyed or held by him” (Article 153). It also included “several other issues which were/are matters of contention between the Malays and Chinese” (2).

In short, the Constitution, formulated in 1957 and 1963 through consultation and consensus of the nation’s founding fathers, is based on the social contract on which the country is founded. The Constitution “ epitomises a social contract among equal partners that promises equality of all citizens – regardless of race and religion – in a pluralist democracy,” said Dr Ng Kam Weng, director of Kairos Research Centre (The Star, Nov 15 2003).

At the King’s birthday last year, the Prime Minister, on behalf of the government, vowed to hold fast to the social contract by protecting all ethnic groups against any form of oppression or discrimination (Star, Jun 6 2004).


1. Barbara Watson & Leonard Andaya, A History of Malaysia. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave, 2001, pp275-7.

2. Leon Comber, A Historical Survey of Sino-Malay Relations. Kuala Lumpur: Heinemann Asia, pp35-50.

3. Federal Constitution of Malaysia – a commentary. Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Current Law Journal, 1986, pp13-4; 482-4.