Should Rukunegara be Preamble to Malaysian Constitution or be the Centrepiece of TN50?

The civil society initiative to make Rukunegara relevant again and be the guide for public policies and law-making is most commendable and timely.

The civil society initiative, known as “Rukunegara sebagai Muqadimmah Perlembagaan” (RMP) or “Rukunegara as the Preamble to the Federal Constitution”, is aimed at including the national document as the opening statement of Malaysia’s supreme law, the Malaysian Constitution.

I cannot agree more with RMP chairman Dr Chandra Muzaffar when he said the Rukunegara has been sidelined, giving way to other trends that threatened national unity and integrity.

He said at the launch of the RMP campaign: “If such trends gain more influence in the future, the characteristics of our country will change.

“This is why we Malaysians have to remind ourselves of the Rukunegara and how important this ideology is in a whole and inclusive society.”

I made a five-day visit to Jakarta and Jogjarkata in September last year together with three DAP MPs, Teresa Kok (Seputeh), Zairil Khir Johari (Bukit Bendera) and Steven Sim (Bukit Mertajam) to meet with leaders of political parties and Islamic organisations as well as public intellectuals, and one thing that struck us was the central place of Pancasila among the major Indonesian political and intellectual leaders in the nation-building process in the country.

This is in sharp contrast with Malaysia, where the “establishment” political and intellectual leaders have virtually forgotten about the Malaysian counterpart to Pancasila, the Rukunegara!

Leaders of the two largest Muslim organisations in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, have no qualms in publicly stating, whether in private discussions or public forums, that their commitment to Pancasila was an important reason why the Islamic State concept was not suitable or appropriate for Indonesia, although Indonesia has the largest number of Muslims for any country in the world!

How many Malaysian political and intellectual leaders in the country are still committed to the five principles of Rukunegara, viz:

  • Belief in God.
  • Loyalty to King and Country.
  • Upholding the Constitution.
  • Rule of Law.
  • Good Behaviour and morality.

Or the five Rukunegara objectives of (1) to achieve a greater unity of all her peoples; (2) to maintain a democratic way of life; (3) to create a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be equitably shared; (4) to ensure a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural traditions; and (5) to build a progressive society which shall be oriented to modern science and technology?

In fact, Malaysia would not be regarded worldwide as a global kleptocracy if the Malaysian government had stayed true, faithful and loyal to the five principles of Rukunegara!

There can be no doubt or argument that the five Rukunegara principles and objectives must be restored to the centrality of Malaysian vision, public policies and law-making.

The question is whether this should be done by making it as a Preamble to the Malaysian Constitution or by other equally meaningful and significant means – as for instance, establish the centrality of Rukunegara in the 2050 National Transformation (TN50) Policy Document which is meant to be a “shared national vision” of Malaysians for the next 33 years.

The arguments which had been advanced by human rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan against Rukunegara becoming the Preamble of the Constitution merits consideration, debate and discussion.

While expressing his support of any initiative to bring the country back to the principles espoused in the Rukunegara, Syahredzan does not support the move to put it as the preamble of the Federal Constitution.

Syahredzan argued: “Making the Rukunegara into some form of binding legal provision would take away the strength of the Rukunegara itself, being a reflection of the aspirations of the people. If those aspirations should change, then a statement of guiding principles can easily be moulded to fit these aspirations, not so if it becomes a rigid document with force of law.

“More importantly, if the Rukunegara is made part of the Federal Constitution, I fear that the constitution would be interpreted in ways which was not possible before. We are already grappling with restrictive interpretations of the provisions of the constitution.”

I had suggested a TN50 national consultative council under the chairmanship of CIMB Group Chairman, Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, to ensure that the 2050 National Transformation Policy is a shared national vision of 100% of the population and not just 47% of the electorate who voted for Barisan Nasional in the 13th General Election in 2013.

A suitable venue for the issue whether Rukunegara should a Preamble of the Malaysian Constitution or occupy a central place in NT50 to be thrashed out is a TN50 National Consultative Council which should comprise representatives from the government, political parties, civil societies, academics, religious leaders, businessmen, youth and women groups.

For this reason, I call on the Prime Minister not to procrastinate or delay in setting up a NT50 National Consultative Council under Nazir, which should be formally decided by the Cabinet at its meeting tomorrow.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah