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The 1993 Royal immunity crisis : the Kerajaan, the constitution and the dilemma of a new Bangsa

Mustafa, Che Norlia (2000) The 1993 Royal immunity crisis : the Kerajaan, the constitution and the dilemma of a new Bangsa. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86148) (KAR id:86148)


The 1993 constitutional crisis marked the watershed not only in Malay political culture but also in Malaysian constitutional history. The abolition of the personal royal immunity of the hereditary Malay Rulers conferred by the Federal Constitution upon Merdeka (independence) in 1957, did not merely adversely affect the Rulers' immunity in the legal sense but also in the politico-cultural sense. The Malays had for a long period of time been indoctrinated with the notion that the Ruler (that is, the Raja, the root word for kerajaany Iwas of an impeccable lineage, possessing that super-natural quality called daulat (this concept, approximately translated as 'sovereignty', embraces legal, cultural and religious meanings) and hence he should never be challenged. To challenge the Ruler in whatever manner, be it passive or aggressive, would tantamount to an act of derhaka (treason). The sentence for treason was death. Apart from that, it

was also believed that a person who committed an act of derhaka would suffer unnatural consequences which was reputed to have taken the form of mysterious diseases. Thus derhaka and daulat formed the key concepts in Malay political thought which served to enforce the legitimacy of a ruler to rule and the rakyat's (subjects') duty to obey.

With the 1993 constitutional amendments to the immunity-conferring provisions, namely Articles 32 (I) and 181 (2), the myth of the Rulers' daulat and impeccability was finally undermined. The amendments had, since then. altered the way in which Malays perceived the ruler or the ruling authority. The initiative of the Prime Minister,Dr.Mahathir Mohamad to create a new Malay political culture through such amendments has had a far reaching impact on Malay political thought and practice, as illustrated by the events following the economic crisis in late 1998 and early 1999. From 1993 onwards, it is argued, Malays have not only departed from their traditional perception of the hereditary Rulers but also of the modem ruling regime. But in doing so they appeared to have been tom between the traditional conscience of derhaka (treason) and the demands of modernity, part of which is symbolized by merdeka (liberty).

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86148
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Malay political culture; Sovereignty; Treason
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
K Law > KZ Law of Nations
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:30 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 14:50 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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