Critics consider it to create an unnecessary and racialist distinction between Malaysians of different ethnic backgrounds, because it has led to the implementation of affirmative action policies which benefit only the Bumiputra, who comprise a majority of the population.
Technically, discussing the repeal of Article 153 is illegal—even in Parliament, although it was drafted as a temporary provision to the Constitution.
Some contended that Article 153 appeared to unduly privilege the Bumiputra as a higher class of Malaysian citizenry.
The commission, which had been formed to lay the groundwork for a Constitution in the run-up to Malaysia's pending independence, released the report in 1957 as the Report of the Federation of Malaya Constitutional Commission 1957 or The Reid Commission Report.
In the report, the Reid Commission stated that "provision should be made in the Constitution for the 'safeguarding of the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of the other Communities'." However, the Commission "found it difficult [...] to reconcile the terms of reference if the protection of the special position of the Malays signified the granting of special privileges, permanently, to one community only and not to the others." The Reid Commission reported that Tunku Abdul Rahman and the Malay Rulers had asked that "in an independent Malaya all nationals should be accorded equal rights, privileges and opportunities and there must not be discrimination on grounds of race and creed." At that time, Tunku Abdul Rahman was the leader of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which led the Alliance coalition.
Eventually the Alliance would become the Barisan Nasional and Tunku Abdul Rahman later became the first Prime Minister of Malaysia.
When succeeding to the UMNO Presidency, Tunku had expressed doubts about the loyalty of the non-Malays to Malaya, and as a result, insisted that this be settled before they be granted citizenship.
In particular, it was not entirely clear if Article 153 was predicated on the Malays' economic status at the time, or if it was meant to recognise Bumiputra as a special class of citizens.
Some took the latter view, like Singaporean politician Lee Kuan Yew of the People's Action Party (PAP), who publicly questioned the need for Article 153 in Parliament, and called for a "Malaysian Malaysia".
However, in the first decade of the 21st century, debate was revived when several government politicians made controversial statements on the nature of Malay privileges as set out by Article 153.
The article has been a source of controversy since the early days of Malaysia.
However, a majority of the Malays during that time believed that the Chinese and the Indians came to Malaya for economic purposes only, working at plantations and mines.
In the 1970s, substantial economic reforms (Malaysian New Economic Policy) were enacted to address the economic imbalance.
In the 1980s and 1990s, more affirmative action was also implemented to create a Malay class of entrepreneurs.