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Call on Abdullah to withdraw his ban on Article 11 and inter-faith forums as Malaysia should be a world model of religious freedom and inter-faith harmony – the reason for his invitation to address Helsinki  ASEM  summit in September


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

, Thursday) The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should withdraw his ban on the holding of Article 11 and inter-faith forums as Malaysia should be a world model of religious freedom and inter-faith harmony – the reason for his invitation to deliver a keynote address at the sixth Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) in Helsinki on Sept. 10 and 11.


Finnish ambassador to Malaysia Lauri Korpinen said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that the European Union (EU) looks forward to Abdullah’s attendance as it wants the prime minister to share the Malaysian experience in race relations and take part in the Asem inter-faith dialogue in Helsinki.


Ambassador Hanna Lehtinen, head of the Asem6 secretariat (America and Asia) said the secretariat had approached Abdullah and to date the indications were that he would attend the meeting.


Abdullah should head an inter-faith delegation to the Asem Summit in Helsinki so that leaders of the 25 European Union countries will  have the  opportunity to have first-hand experience to interact  not only with the Prime Minister but also  representatives of the major religions in Malaysia.


We cannot deny that Malaysia is going through a difficult patch and challenging time in inter-faith relations in the country as illustrated by Abdullah’s  misguided directive after Tuesday’s UMNO Supreme Council meeting to  stop immediately all Article 11 forums on freedom of religion, on the ground that they cause tension in our multi-religious society.


The directive is misguided and should be withdrawn for three reasons:


  • It confused the objective of  Article 11 coalition to uphold freedom of religion with the controversial Inter-Faith Commission (IFC) initiative. As the Article 11 coalition statement clarified  yesterday, its activities are focused on the rights and guarantees of citizens under the supreme law of the country and not aimed at reviving the initiative to establish an IFC.


  • It revives the most unhealthy and dangerous practice  that the peaceful, democratic  and non-violent defence of constitutional rights can be  suppressed by the  breaches of the peace, unlawful acts and even   threats  of violence making a total mockery of the Rukunegara principles, in particular on the Supremacy of the Constitution and the Rule of Law.


  • The  arbitrary  and non-consultative nature of the directive, as it was made without reference, discussion or consent first with  the other Barisan Nasional component parties.


If threats to breaches of the peace and  violent protests can succeed in shutting down peaceful and lawful Article 11 forums,  will majority brute force be allowed henceforth to trample on the constitutional rights of minorities, regardless of race, religion or political beliefs?


Will one day soon come when forums and public meetings to  defend the original nation-building principles of the country as represented by the “social contract”, 1957  Merdeka Constitution and 1963 Malaysian Agreement that Malaysia is a democratic, multi-religious and secular nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic state – a position which had been consistently  upheld by the first three Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn – be regarded as threats to national security on the same ground that “they cause tension in our multi-religious society”?


Utusan Malaysia today carried a front-page report “Kabinet arah henti bincang isu sensitive agama”, saying that those who violated such a ban, including the media, are liable to severe penalties.


It is most shocking if the Cabinet should unilaterally impose such a ban a day after the UMNO Supreme Council meeting, without the fullest consultation with all concerned groups including political parties, MPs, religions, NGOs and the civil society – as it will not be consistent with Malaysia’s reputation as a country where freedom of religion and inter-faith relations in a plural society  is a model for the rest of the world.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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