The Constitutionality Of Meritocracy

Meritocracy can be defined as “an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth” as well as “leadership by able and talented persons.” It basically means giving something to those who deserve it.

Some people have suggested that Malaysia should be operating on the system of meritocracy as it ensures that only those who are capable & deserving receive the benefit, job, etc. I agree it is a good system, but I want to analyse it from a legal viewpoint

Is meritocracy unconstitutional? The answer is, it depends. Depends on what? It depends on what you want meritocracy to apply to.

Let’s say you suggest that meritocracy apply in terms of the awarding of scholarships and placements in universities. Article 153 talks about the reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits, etc for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak. Article 153(2) expressly mentions “scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government.” So yeah, if regarding ‘quota’s and scholarships’, meritocracy would be unconstitutional.

Let’s say you’re talking about meritocracy regarding positions in the public service. Article 153(2) covers “positions in the public service (other than the public service of the state).” Therefore, it would be unconstitutional to demand for meritocracy for that as well

How about meritocracy regarding the appointment of Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers? Meritocracy would not be unconstitutional, but it would be a bit impractical. According to Article 43 and 43A, the YDP Agong appoints them (the ministers & deputy ministers) on the advice of the PM. However, the PM is only allowed to choose from the crop of members of either House of Parliament [Article 43(2)(b) and 43A(1)]

If we practiced meritocracy, none of the MPs may be qualified for the position of Minister of Defence as most (if not all), do not have any military background. The next best choice might not even be suitable for the job. Hence we would be back to square one (having incompetent ministers). The only solution would be for the political parties to field candidates from all walks of life. Then at least the talent pool is greater and more diverse

* This article can also be found at Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider