Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Reid Commission


Lord Reid (left) Sir Ivor jennings (right)


Justice Abdul Hamid of Pakistan


Sir William McKell (Australia) and B. Malik of India

Hindraf is suing the British Government for the 'sufferings' of Indians (Malaysian ciizens)and partly put the blame on the Reid Commission for not providing constitutional protection to the Indian community in the then Federation of Malaya and now Malaysia. Following are background information on the Reid Commission taken from a special publication of the then Straits Times in conjuncion wih Federation of Malaya's independence in August, 1957.

In March 1956, an independent commission to draw up a constitution for a fully self-governing and independent Malaya was set up. The chairman of this body was Lord Reid, a disinguished British judge.


Other members of the Commission:- Sir Ivor Jennings (United Kingdom); Sir William McKell (Australia); Mr. B. Malik (India) and Justice Abdul Hamid (Pakistan).

The Reid Commission produced its report in February 1957. It recommended "a federal form of constitution for the whole country as a single, self-governing unit within the Commonwealth based on parliamentary democray."


"In recommending the form which the necessary political and administrative changes should take," the report said, "we have borne in mind that the new provisions must be both practicable in exising circumstances and fair to all sections of the community."


Though unanimous agreement was too much to expect, it was universally agreed that the commission had taken a statesmanlike, sympathetic and well-balanced view of the problems of Malaya's plural society. Provisions was made for a strong central government, and for these additional main objectives:



A measure of autonomy for the States and Settlements.

The safeguarding of the position and prestige of Their Highnesses as constitutional Rulers of their respective States.

A constituional Paramount Ruler (Yang di-Pertuan Agong) for the Federation, to be chosen from among the Rulers.

A common nationality for the whole of the Federation.

The safeguarding of the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of other communities.



A great achievement during the hearings of the Reid Commission had been the presentaion of a joint memorandum by the triple Alliance. This reconciliation of the different, and to some extent conflicting, views of UMNO (United Malays Naional Organization), the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC), would have been impossible in the political climate of Malaya only a few years before.


It was a gesture of Malayan unity before a Malayan nation had been born.


The Reid report adopted a number of the Alliance proposals, and also some of those made by the Rulers' Conference, but added others of its own. After the report appeared, UMNO took the position that where the Reid was beyond the Alliance memorandum the latter should stand, because the Alliance proposals had been agreed upon as the farthest to which each of the three main communities could go in give-and-take negotiations.

The Chinese accepted the Malay view, and, because it involved a real sacrifice, this was perhaps an even more striking gesture of goodwill, compromise and Malayan unity than the original agreement reached within the Alliance.

The Reid report was referred to a working committee of the Federation Government and the Rulers to hammer out such contentious matters as remained, particularly the commission's recommendation that the Straits-born communities of Penang and Malacca, should retain their dual status as Federal citizens, and citizens of the United Kingdom and the Colonies. This the Constitution permits, but only on the basis of undivided loyalty to Malaya. This dual citizenship dies with the present (1957) generation.

From the first, however, there was unanimous agreement on certain other main recommendations : notably the widening of the Malayan citizenship law so as to enlarge the Federal electorate (bringing in many more Chinese, Indians and others); and also on the position of Islam as the state religion, with freedom of worship for all other religions.

4 comments:

Don'tPlayGod said...

I believe quite a good number of Straits Settlement Chinese have taken up residence in Britain as British citizens. One of my old friend's brother did that. I think not many of those born in the Straits Settlement are aware of that.

So guys, those of you who have been asked to leave, here is one legal and easy option. Just go to Britain and claim your British citizenship. Of course, as the Reid constitution says, its only for those who were born in the Straits Settlements before Independence, like yours truly here.

And once you have taken up your claim as a British citizenship, you can easily emigrate to any English-speaking country, like the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other smaller countries.

So Penangites and Malaccans, what are you waiting for?

jayaklang said...

Does anybody know where one can find a copy of the joint memorandum by the triple Alliance?

temenggong said...

"After the report appeared, UMNO took the position that where the Reid was beyond the Alliance memorandum the latter should stand, because the Alliance proposals had been agreed upon as the farthest to which each of the three main communities could go in give-and-take negotiations.

The Chinese accepted the Malay view, and, because it involved a real sacrifice, this was perhaps an even more striking gesture of goodwill, compromise and Malayan unity than the original agreement reached within the Alliance."

We do not know if this Umno/Alliance position was adopted into the constitution, whereby 'the Alliance proposals had been agreed upon as the farthest to which each of the three main communities could go in give-and-take negotiations'. We do not know if this really happened. Even if it did, that would have been an Alliance (internal) arrangement, subsequently incorporated into the constitution post independence.

What we have are 1. the Reid Commission proposals, and 2. the Constitution.

The complaints of the raykat are that the provisos of the constitution were 'curbed or nullified by the various Amendments' to the constitution starting from 1959. The rakyat's quest is to return to the 1957 constitution AS IT WAS!

chingoo said...

Bukan sahaja Strait Settlement Chinese boleh menjadi Rakyat British tetapi Rakyat Malaysia lain pun boleh kerana status sebagai warganegara komwel yang termaktub dalam perlembagaan Malaysia. Rakyat Komanwel ada lah salah satu kategori dalam kerakyatan British. Rakyat Malaysia yang pergi ke UK sebelum tahun 1980 boleh mengundi dalam pilihanraya di sana terutama pilihanraya tempatan. Tetapi sekarang segala-galanya sudah berubah kerana UK sudah buat pindaan menjelang penyerahan balik Hong Kong kepada China. Jadi idea nak jadi rakyat atau warganegara British perlu dilupakan. Hak itu sudah tiada lagi.