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Article 121(1A) controversy –
don’t create synthetic political crisis
Media Statement (2)
A rampage has started against the unprecedented memorandum by nine of the ten non-Muslim ministers to the Prime Minister, with the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz demanding that the non-Muslim ministers should withdraw the memorandum as it was a “threat” and challenge to Abdullah as Prime Minister.
He added that “their action seems to suggest a rift between non-Muslim and Muslim ministers”.
I want to make a call to all concerned, particularly Barisan Nasional leaders and parties, not to create a synthetic political crisis. There is no conflict and tension between Muslims and non-Muslims or Malays and non-Malays, as the issue at stake is about the question of justice – the restoration of the pre-1988 position of the constitutional rights of the non-Muslim Malaysians.
Before the 1988 constitutional amendment on Article 121(1A), if the question was asked whether the rights and interests of non-Muslims could be adversely affected by Syariah law and courts, the answer would be a definitive and indisputable “no” by all quarters, whether Muslims and non-Muslims. However, after the 1988 Constitutional amendment of Article 121(1A), such an answer cannot be given.
This is the nub of the issue - to restore to non-Muslim Malaysians their constitutional right not to be adversely affected by Syariah law and courts by maintaining their right to remedy in the civil courts - a cardinal principle of the “social contract” on which this nation was founded in 1957.
The unprecedented memorandum by the non-Muslim Ministers could be given two interpretations.
The worst interpretation is to regard the memorandum by the non-Muslim Ministers as a “threat” and challenge to the authority of Abdullah as Prime Minister. Is this credible? Is there any possibility that the memorandum by the non-Muslim ministers, whether MCA, Gerakan, MIC, SUPP or the Sabah Barisan Nasional parties, was conceived and intended as a challenge to the authority and premiership of Abdullah?
I think the political history and reality of Malaysia is such that such a notion is completely unthinkable. As a result, any attempt to read the memorandum as a “threat” and challenge to Abdullah’s authority when there is no basis whatsoever is the height of irresponsibility – especially if the result is to plunge the country into a synthetic political crisis.
This leaves the other interpretation – that the memorandum by the non-Muslim ministers was more an act of desperation or impotence, reflecting their lack of confidence that their views will be given proper weight and consideration in the Cabinet.
This is a test of the leadership and statesmanship of Abdullah as Prime Minister. However annoyed he may be with the memorandum by the non-Muslim ministers, he should know that it was never intended to be a “threat” or challenge to his authority and he should not allow the creation of a synthetic political crisis not only with serious ethnic and religious implications, but which will completely distract the focus and attention on a just solution to the Article 121(1A) and Moorthy controversies.
Abdullah should demonstrate that the country has moved away from the past era where a synthetic political crisis could easily be manufactured as a prelude to a massive crackdown on human rights crackdown like the Operation Lalang of 1987.
Malaysia will be celebrating our 50th year nationhood in 2007. Let us prove that Malaysians have room to discuss sensitive issues affecting their constitutional rights even those pertaining to religion in a mature and rational manner free from emotional outbursts.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman