Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ketuanan Melayu

I have refrained myself from writing about politics for the whole of October. I was so muak of Malaysian politics that I felt I had to get away from it all. It is now November. And here I think I should say something about this subject.

I am normally very good at grasping a concept, understanding it, differentiating it from other not dissimilar concept, identifying it's positive and negative points and using it. However, try as I might, I just could not understand the concept of Ketuanan Melayu aka Malay Supremacy aka Malay Dominance. Let alone identify it. Now I wonder whether I have lost it. I have lost my intelligence. That could be it. Or perhaps, just perhaps, there is no such concept to begin with. And that is why I can't identify it.

Throughout my years in government schools and later in government university, as well as my one year in a Mat Salleh university, I have not come across the concept of Ketuanan Melayu. And that despite the fact that history was my  favourite subject. That also despite the fact that I took not only the Malaysian Federal Constitution as a subject, but also the Malaysian Administrative Law as well as Comparative Constitutional Laws as optional subjects. Not to mention the Study of Politics paper which I also took in the Economics faculty for fun.

No. I did not come across that concept in all my school years. Nada. Zilch! I must have missed the lectures or tutorials when the subject of Ketuanan Melayu was being taught or discussed (which is likely) or I was then asleep (which is likely too!). Or, it could be that that subject was never ever taught or discussed. And if it wasn't so taught or discussed, the most likely explanation to that omission would be that there is no such thing as Ketuanan Melayu. That is my logical mind at work. I can't put illogical reasoning to this conundrum because I am a logical person. Perhaps YB Zulkifli Nordin has a different view. I don't know. He probably has one. And then some. Because he is a clever fellow. Sorry, I digress.

So, if Ketuanan Melayu was never ever taught or discussed in my 18 years of studies, when it was a fact that I took subjects in which the matter would have ordinarily been discussed, I can make a reasonable conclusion that the concept never existed. If it did, it was insignificant or irrelevant to our history or laws so much so that it was not worth a mention.

How then this so called concept manage to infiltrate our socio-politico scenes lately? Dr Mahathir talked about it. Zaid Ibrahim said the concept was a failure. Shahidan Kassim said Zaid should repent for saying what he said. Syed Hamid Albar asked Zaid to apologise and branded Zaid a traitor! Shahidan went even further to say that Zaid should cease from being a Malay and that he should repent!

The question is, if Zaid was or is a Malay ,(is he? Am I? Are you?) how could Zaid cease from being one? How does one un-Malay oneself? Or was Shahidan talking about the legal concept of being a Malay? Under our Federal Constitution, a Malay is defined as being a person who:

i) practices the Malay adat and ways of living;

ii) professes the religion of Islam; and,

iii) speak Bahasa Malaysia (aka Bahasa Kebangsaan aka Bahasa Melayu which later became Bahasa Malaysia and then turned into Bahasa Melayu yet again and now is known as Bahasa....well...I don't know).

Following such definition, I suppose Zaid can un-Malay himself by not doing either or all of those things. We should pause here for a while. Note the first criteria above. One is a Malay if one practices the Malay adat and way of life. That's like saying one is an English if one is an English. Like how are we going to know what Malay adat is and Malay ways of life is when the word "Malay" is not yet defined? Jeez... The Malays used to carry the keris all over town. Nowadays no Malay in his/her correct mind would do so. Does that mean there are no more Malays around? The Malays used to be able to visit their neighbours without an appointment or pre-set date. Now most Malay urbanite don't even dream of doing that. Even the hari raya "open house" is only "opened" to invitees only. Does that mean most Malay urbanites are not Malays anymore? I don't know. I am just asking.

Back to Zaid and Shahidan Kassim. I was saying, rather, asking, how does Zaid un-Malay himself?

Then, apparently Zaid should "repent". Repentance connotes an act which is religious in nature. One repents if one has committed a sinful act. If so, since when, may I ask, has disputing or "challenging" the efficiency of Ketuanan Melayu become a sin?

Shahidan was also quoted as saying Zaid should leave the "rumpun Melayu". Yea...rite. Typical. Remember the MP's remark in the parliament not so long ago? "If the "pendatangs" don't like it here, then "they" should leave the country!". Very intellectual. Very stimulating engagement. What a polemic! Shahidan, ur da man.

Lets just for one moment accept  that Ketuanan Melayu exists factually and conceptually. And let us all  hypothesise  that the Federal Constitution was premised upon such concept.

Question: what is the use of the Malays being a Tuan all the way if the Malays are still lagging behind in all aspects of achievements in their "own" country?

Question 2: how does one reconcile the "dominance" or "supremacy" of the Malays with the fact that the Malays, according to UMNO and our leaders, still need subsidies and preferential treatments - in Dr Mahathir's words or terminology, this is called "affirmative actions" - in order to make them successful?

Question 3: when we speak of the Malay Dominance or Malay Supremacy, what is the subject over which the Malays are supposed to be dominant or supreme?

In the phaleo-worlds, the concept of "dominance" connotes the physical power to assert control over a subject matter. "Supremacy" on the other hand is a state of being supreme. In  terms of socio-politico outlook, the Malay Supremacy would mean the installation and maintenance of the Malays as the supreme authority of the society or the land. Historically, we would  probably have to go back to the 1400s, during the era of the Melaka Sultanates, to find, if at all,  such a level of dominance by or supremacy of the Malays.

The arrival of the Portuguese, Dutch and later the English as well as the Japanese had completely destroyed such socio-politico status of the Malays and their rulers. History would show that the English made our Rulers agree to the appointment of various advisors, the advice of whom must be accepted and implemented by the Rulers. That completely banished any iota of dominance or supremacy of the Malays over the society and the land. If the effect was immediately felt in the socio-politico arena, soon it would also have an economical consequences as well.

The Japanese were however more accommodating to the status of the Malay rulers and the Malays  in general. However that was borne out of the necessity to win the support (or at least the acceptance) of the Malays as the Chinese was far more physical in their opposition of the Japanese. That was due to the historical animosity between Japan and China. And so preferential treatments were accorded to the Malays and even their rulers by the Japanese.

That was however to change when the British came back. The proposed Malayan Union would render the Malay rulers, and the Malays, as normal and equal citizens as the British were more interested in establishing a Westminster based democracy. The British ideals were however not well met by the Malays, who claimed historical dominance and "supremacy" in the phaleo-world.

Here lies the claim for the "social contract". This hyphotesises an agreement between the Malays and the British - some sort of a modern aged Magna Carta - whereby the Malays would agree to the Chinese and Indians being granted citizenship to the fledgling Malaysia as long as certain Malay rights and the position of the Malay rulers are preserved. Hence the provisions of Articles 152 and 153 in the Federal Constitution.

If we accept therefore the existence of the "social contract" -  and I have no doubt that it existed - surely the concept of Malay Dominance or Supremacy could not have existed anymore. That is because such concept would have been superseded by the "social contract" which our politicians so readily embrace and protect as a sacrosanct deed as well as the provisions in the Federal Constitution. Surely the establishment of a Westminster styled Federation and democracy would run repugnant to the concept of Malay Dominance or Supremacy as the two could not walk with each other on the same road.

A lot has been said about the social contract. But what is being focused at is the citizenship rights which have been so graciously granted by the Malays to the non-Malays (some called the non-Malays "pendatangs" or "immigrants"). However, no effort is being done to look at the social contract from the viewpoint of the non-Malays. Surely the non-Malays, in accepting the social contract, also had their own expectations. Surely the social contract is a contract which impose obligations and rights to both the Malays, on one side, and also the non-Malays, on the other side.

Consequently, would it not be unreasonable to argue that in entering into the social contract with the Malays, the non-Malays would have expected that they are not going to be dominated by the Malays and that all citizens are to be equal before the law and that no particular citizen shall be regarded as supreme?

I would have thought not.


donplaypuks® said...


You know, we have never met. But I am extremely proud to have read that you worked with Imtiaz on RPK's habeas corpus appeal. Wish that there were more M'sians like you around.

As for that bastard Magoo, once again he's talking cock in saying Zaid is lucky to be born Malay, as they he had a choice!

You note it is always these half, 1/3rd and quarter Malays who are the greatest proponents and defenders of the Ketuanan Melayu (KM) notion?

All of us should perhaps have blazoned across our blogs that the Constitution only talks about the special position of the Malays as regards jobs in civil service, education, scholarships et al, and not KM.

If there is a Social Contract (and Royal Prof Ungku Aziz says there isn't) then it cannot be one-sided and not commentable upon by non-Malays or remain unchanged for all Eternity. Even the most rabid promoter of KM will not claim our Constitution is a Holy Document like the Koran!

Mind you, issues such as Bumiputra (an economic grouping which many now claim is a Race) only came about by amending the 1957 Constitution.

Well, I see this all as the thinly disguised attempts of Racialists to drive a wedge against true multi-culturalism, national integration and what 1 Ciztizenship really means, so that 'THEY' can continue the policy of divide and rule.

To that, I say, PTUII !!!

Anonymous said...

Hmm, looks like it is possible to navel-gaze logically...
I'm very glad to have found another rational and logical blog to visit, thanks to the link from People's Parliament.
Best regards,

Mr. Smith said...

There are two types of Malays. The first group is the lovable one. I just love these Malays namely, people like you, Haris, Malik, ,Farish, Bakri, Din, Azly and several politicians from PKR and PAS.
The second group is the ugly UMNO Malay. This group, some of whom are Arabs, Indians and Indon, claim to be more Malays than the original Malays. And they all belong to UMNO.
They have no morals, ethics, culture, utterly corrupted, anti non-Malays and unMalay in their way of life.

They use religion and race to enrich themselves. These are the Malays who should repent - if at all what they do is sin in the eyes of God.
In my schooldays in the 1950s and 60s I never met such ugly Malays. My peers belonged to the first group, the lovable Malays.

Anonymous said...

Love reading your articles, O gazerofnavels!

bn haramjadah said...

'KETUANAN MELAYU' is an UMNO SLOGAN, which they are very good at proclaiming, just like communist propoganda. Here is the unbridlled truth what KETUANAN MELAYU is all about.
Here is an example of Ketuanan Melayu, let me explain first what it means, it is an excuse to rape,pillage,collect under-table money by UMNO CRONIES in positions of power for grants, scholarships, loans, contracts, etc.
What is the purpose of Mara, its purpose is to help out the Ketuanan malay agenda, in other words, it is a special purpose vehicle to disburse funds, but even then it is subjected to abuses. An e.g. from personal experience, I worked for a Bumiputra company with a ratio of 96% of the staff being malays, the company applied for a grant under the prosper scheme for eexpansion, this is a fund set up to help bumi SMI’s, well the working paper and the company’s profile with a solid progress track record with following the rules and not depending on handouts, when shown to bankers for funding was approved without any questions asked, in fact the bankers said we were very conservative with our projections, whereas the reality was business was booming. Now we were recomended to Mara for grant status, after all the meetings held and the top management of Mara wanting to help out the bumi company, as a shining example and a showcase to other bumi companies to follow. The bottom line the funding eventhough approved by the top management was approved was rejected by the funding committee. We were informally contacted by a third party and when I met this third party, it turns out He was the lobbiest and runner for certain influental members from the Mara financial committee, What did he want? HE TOLD US IF YOU WANT THE FUNDING, YOU WILL PAY US 15% OF THE GRANT AMOUNT AS OUR COMMISSION, So I asked him so how does this work, payment by check not acceptable, our grant request was for rm500,000.00, so the payment to this runner/lobbiest/ shark was Rm 45,000. to be paid in cash the moment the letter of approval is issued, but go back on your word and it gets cancelled on a technicality. When we contacted the person from Mara he acknowledged the third parties existence and acknowledged the deal. When I informed the directors in the board meeting, they were so incensed and disgusted they cancelled the whole thing but not before informing the top management of Mara, WELL GUESS WHAT, the people involved, nothing happened to them.
What am I trying to say, there are Bumi businessmen out there whocarry on doing their business, who don’t want to be part and parcel of this corruption, so they stay away from all these snake pits of ‘KETUANAN MELAYU’, but the pressure put on your company can at times kill the business, they have tentacles everuwhere, when pressure was put on the company for reporting the incident to the higher ups, the bchairman of the board gave an ultimation which I delivered to the third party concerned, leave us alone or we will file charges with the ACA, ALL OUR PHONE CONVERSATIONS WERE RECORDED, so everything was on tape, the pressure stopped within2 days. THATS HOW THINGS WORK, either you are with us, or if you are against us STFU, or we make life very difficult for you. Our advantage was we did not depend on the local markets whose doors were shut to us in retaliation but on exports. SO who says ketuanan Melayu helps the Malay businessmen, IN reality it doesn’t. This is a collusses of corruption which runs through every GOVT. backed machinery. Thats the KETUANAN MELAYU THAT THEY ARE HARPING ABOUT, to rape, pilage and line their pockets in the name of KETUANAN Melayu aka pyramid get rich quick scheme for umnoputras.

Anonymous said...

How to un-Malay oneself?

This process can only be done by those who are not real Malays but who seek to become celup Malays simply by adopting the way of life of the Malays.

Real Malays cannot and do not need to un-Malay themselves because they are the Malays by birth right. Zaid Ibrahim cannot un-Malay himself as he is a Malay by birth!

It's only those who are not real Malays but seek to become a celup Malay in order to enjoy the special previleges accorded to the Malays/Bumiputras of the country that can UN-Malay themselves. This process can easily be applied to people like Syed Albar. As for Shahidan and Dr. M., do they qualify ?? - need we say more!

Search through the history of Malaysian politics and check out those who are very vocal about Ketuanan Melayu and you will find that most of these agitations comes from those who can un-Malay themselves. These are the celups who tries to be more Malay than the real Malays...but as we all know, nothing can ever be better than the real thing - moreover most of these vocal celups are only there for the benefits, not for the sake of the Malay race!!!

The majority of the real Malays do not succumb to such depravity because they know that they themselves are already tuan of their hospitality!

Repects are earned, no amounts of threats can reap the rewards of respects which are earned.

Malaysians Unplugged Uncensored said...

Mr Harun

We have taken the liberty and in anticipation of your kind permission to repost (with our normal practice of reformatting for purposes of internet readability) your well-written article on our website to ensure there is wider readership of your thoughts and this very controversial issue. We felt it deserves to be read by Malaysians of all political persuasions.


Thank you

Warmest regards

Malaysians Unplugged Uncensored Team

de minimis said...


Good analysis. I'm fully on board. But I have to say that the Navel Vision is pleasantly distracting ... arousing, even.

Antares said...

Artfully Articulated, Art! The Navel is also called Pusat which in recent days refers to the Center... and your thoughts are absolutely CENTERED! Bravo! Look forward to a Close Encounter with the Man Who Sees The World Through His Belly Button Window :-)

Mr Smith puts it quite succinctly when he speaks of the two groups of Malays. Shall we devise a program for the mass de-Umno-ization of the Ugly & Unlovable Ones? We'll make them pay through their jambu noses for our rehab & redemption services (they can well afford it, the bloody pirates :-)

Anonymous said...

Tailek says....to BN Haramjadah, thank you for pointing out the excesses of MARA, an agency designed and set up specifically to promote Bumiputra interests. I am not a Malay and I don't have a problem with that. By all means help the less fortunate and deserving of your own race. No issue there.

What pisses me off is that there is such rampant and officially ssanctioned corruption in MARA which discriminates even their own people and then the Govt says Bumis have not yet attained the NEP targets and hence that policy must continue. How do you expect deserving diligent Bumi businessmen like Haramjadah's company to prosper when there is such corruption at agencies like MARA which is supposed to be there to help such Bumi businesses. At the end of the day the non-Malay community will continue to have to give up more of their share because agencies like MARA do not help the attainment of the NEP which should be their primary objective.

Haramjadah, my only regret is that your company's top brass did not take this all the way and report this matter to the ACA (eventhough in all likelihood the ACA would perhaps not have done anything about it too given the powerful personalities behind MARA)

I hope your company got their funding from some other source in the end.

Cruzeiro said...

Good reasoning.
Anyway, the problem IMHO here is the flawed definition of a "Malay" in the Constitution, which has been "cast in stone"- sort of.

Speaking of The Social Contract -by definition, it is no more, no less than the Federal Constitution itself - I'd be in total agreement with your argument, as well as that of the Royal conference in asking the people to abide by the principles of the founding fathers (be they Brits or Malayans).

However, in BTN, Umno-speak - that is not what it is supposed to mean, as the term as a political statement, came into existence (in the Malaysian context), only during the Mahathir era. And they enforced the political spin at the expense of the Federal Constitution which was rendered toilet paper (in the eyes of Umno constitutionally illiterate warlords). To them it was their "crony capitalist" version of NEP that was supreme.

In that sense, the "social contract" did not & cannot exist, except as a political spin meant to hoodwink the public, and hijack the nation as a whole.

The Notion & the "Social Contract".

Joe said...

These "Ketuanan Melayu" and "Social Contract" concepts have 2 major flaws; namely, they failed to deal with (1) the existence of Orang Asli and (2) the States of Sabah & Sarawak, who joined Malaya as nation states to form Malaysia without these political baggages but are now subjected to the same garbage.

tarings said...

Unfortunately the DNA analysis cannot be used to differentiate race. Or else, those very people shouting the ketuanan mantra would be the ones opposing.

It wouldn't surprise me if the offsprings of a Bangladeshi guy and an Indonesian lady be accepted as members of that red, white and keris party. A few more tuans to chant the mantra. They would even invite Shah Rukh Khan as a member if not for the uproar surrounding the datukship.

The Malays don't need protection from other races. They definitely need protection from their own perosak bangsa, affectionately know as bangsat.

Kris said...

Your post has stirred up a veritable hornets nest of responses! As is your strength though, you have stated the facts and dissected the logic behind KM (or lack thereof)and asked all to come to their own conclusions. The underlying thread to most of the responses to your post reveals one common theme though. An understanding that the concept of KM (and all other race based ideologies/policies etc in Malaysia) is primarily a tool used to manipulated the impressionable. It is probably not even believed by most who advocate it but it serves to empower them as it is the easiest (if not basest of platforms) upon which to garner influence, power and ultimately wealth. And the biggest perpetrators, UMNO politicians. But the MCA and MIC have played their roles as well. They have played on the fears and insecurities of Malaysians again for the above mentioned reasons, all for personal gain with nary a thought for the people they purportedly claimed to champion. Albeit with different lies...

I too have the pleasure of calling most Malaysians friends. Good and decent people. And it's easy and enough to spot them. First clue, if they're a UMNO, MCA or MIC member, stay clear. Proximity even limited to a 100 metre radius could cause their stench to permeate every fiber of your being...

Anonymous said...

If Shahidan is so obsesssed with Malay Supremacy, he should have done his best to improve the welfare of the impoverished Malays in Perlis when he was the MB. That he didin't was a well-known fact among the people of Perlis. Instead he used his power to enrich himself by making sure that lucrative state contracts went to his crony companies. The Raja's rejection of reappointing him as the MB after March 8 spoke volume about his performance as an MB. There are many hypocrites like Shahidan who use the Malay Supremacy platform to get rich themselves.That is why, after more than 30 yeras of NEP, Malays on the whole are still lagging behind in many fields in this country.

Anonymous said...

There is a blog called deminegara.blogspot.com
Pls do read him. There are some hard truths in this blogger's observations. You may not agree with him, but he's got a persuasive style of writing. He is witty and he has class.


A true Malaysian said...

Probably the 'Melayu' is the only race in the world to have 'definition' in a constitution. Worse still, it is defined in such a manner that one of profess 'Islam' as the religion.

I find this definition as 'unfortunate' to the Malays themselves and to Malaysian of all races. I mentioned 'Malaysian of all races' here because, more often than not, Umno will play up the issue of 'Ketuanan' and 'Islam' in the name of 'pantang dicabar' or 'sensitive issues'. These only restrict intellectual discussion amongst all Malaysians to foster better understanding and the emergence of 'Bangsa Malaysia'.

But, it is indeed a blessing in disguise to have you 'lovable Malays' around as commented by Mr. Smith.

Bravo, brothers.

Knights Templar said...

Memang class lah you bro !

Daef said...

I know it's late in coming bro, but as usual utterly brilliant and in complete agreement with your impeccable analysis. The hypocrisy of racial politics here about Ketuanan Melayu has resonance in a favourite book of mine - A Man of the People by Achebe. They should do an audit on all those Malay cabinet ministers and see where all their children are schooled, what cars they all drive, what clothes they wear and where they go for their holidays. Furthermore, that you have shown this concept to be an illusion, begs the further question of why this illusion was conjured up by the Malay political 'intelligentsia' (I loathe to use the word 'intelligent' to refer to them). This concept can be looked at as a defensive measure if you think about it. I mean, let's face it - has there really been any questioning from the non-Malays about the status of the Malays? Seriously? Not in my experience. Are they racist? Of course they are, just like the Malays but the difference is that they know that they don't have the numbers in such a racial context like Malaysia, so they just learn to deal with it. They don't bother questioning it - it's too much effort. They just overcome it.
Back to my point, which is this: if the non-Malays are not questioning the Malay's status, why then are the 'political Malays' (I mean for this article those 'Malays' and all those who try to come within its definition championing and adherents to the concept) raising this illusory concept of Ketuanan Melayu? As you have shown it to be not based in any logical or legal doctrine, suggests a sense of racial paranoia stemming from an insecurity. Or that's what I tend to think anyway. I know it's always sort of been simmering in the background, but when did the intensification begin? I would would think that to be during Tun. M, tenure. He had no qualms about playing the Malay racial paranoia card. I remember one prominent UMNO politician once being reported as saying something like, 'Becareful, we Malays go amok when provoked.' or some crap like that. I felt like saying, there you go, showing just how scatter-brained and violence prone the Malays can be at times of intense pressure. Is that something to be proud of?
That's just the dark side that most thankfully never reach or even contemplate. And as you have shown they also play up this victim mentality and hence deserving benefits. I call this the 'Pity-Me' approach, which when you think about it is pretty pathetic. The political Malay is now feeling an acute sense of insecurity as a result of playing the victim all the time. The Ketuanan Melayu argument which is a rather recent concept I feel, could perhaps be now the counter argument to that victim led argument.
But I think on a larger more cultural and societal wide level, I think it interesting that this intensification of political Malay centricness to coincide with the rise of China and India on the global level in important matters of economics, finance, world production, etc but also on a cultural level - kungfu, Indian starlets (and now a bit of Bollywood) has invaded Hollywood and become a mainstay, which now is one of the most famous cultural factories of America. And what is more if you think about it, like in Malaysia - on the sporting level where there are no such handicaps - how many Malays do you see competing on the global level, or their ratio to the non-Malays representing Malaysia in cultural and sports areas these days? In our nation's supposed speciality - badminton - how many? or our
nation's favourite sport - we are nowhere in Asia right now in football. Most of our government funded and private related interests that have been run exclusively by Malays have usually failed. That sometimes the losses are due to the alleged corruption that was to have taken place in there makes it even sadder. For better or for worse, they have had to deal with these impose role models, icons and symbols, and they have failed to live up to their billing. These I believe would have an influence on the general Malay psyche. And that to me is the fault of UMNO. That party has turned into one of those African political parties that espouse racist/nationalistic policies. It has failed to develop and honour the symbol of the Malays that it has inherited. Instead it has corrupted it, made them greedy, lazy and wicked. The irony is that for all its paranoia towards Malaycentricness, UMNO is an acronym for the English name of the party: United Malays National Organization.

Finally, I resonate with the post before me:

Memang class lah you bro! :D

art harun said...


Your analysis on the "we-are-the-victim" syndrome is illuminating. A vertically challenged person almost always walk with a shoe box around, just so they can stand up and be seen (and heard).
If you look around, the KLCC, KLIA,F1 Circuit,Corridors this and corridors that etc are our own shoe boxes. And stuck in the mind of the Malays, sadly, is this need for such shoe boxes.
Hence the keris, and its waving and kissing...and the claim for dominance and supremacy.

desiderata said...

dear art, fullOFheART:

I first read about you via donplaypuks, so I second all what he writhed hear!I shant C&P as he's copyrighted while I'm a confessed leftist.

Jest FYI< I've picked up your cheery/knot cherry write to post up at cpiasia.net. Do come for a CPI YouthSpeak forum to be held in 3 weeks from now -- would like to meet at least one more member of distinguished legal team (I've bum-ped into Malik Imtiaz:)...Desi, infamous 4DDC writHing.
BTW:my word veri reads: ressick, any significance wit' my first komento hear?

jazrul said...

only came about by amending the 1957 Constitution

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fauzi said...

That party has turned into one of those African political parties that espouse racist/nationalistic policies.

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fauzi said...

i do no about amending consitution

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