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End of 31-month “false dawn” of openness, accountability, transparency, tolerance and “preparedness  to hear the truth” of Abdullah premiership?


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

, Friday) Are we seeing the end of the 31-month “false dawn” of openness, accountability, transparency, tolerance and “preparedness to hear the truth” of the Abdullah premiership?


The last three days are sad and sombre days for Malaysians who had hoped against hope, hanging on to the slender belief that despite repeated disappointments  Abdullah would not renege on his Prime Ministerial  pledge on reform to lead a clean, accountable, efficient, democratic and just administration, and that he would finally deliver on his promise to  walk the talk.


Such hopes have been crushed by the events of the past three days:


  • Media reports on Wednesday on his directive after the UMNO Supreme Council meeting the previous day   to stop immediately all Article 11 forums on freedom of religion, on the ground that they cause tension in our multi-religious society;

  • The exclusive in Utusan Malaysia yesterday reporting that the weekly Cabinet meeting on Wednesday had rubber-stamped the UMNO Supreme Council  “directive” to stop all discussion on “sensitive” religious issues;

  • The reports today on Abdullah’s “advice” to “the media to voluntarily stop printing or broadcasting issues related to religious matters” – with Abdullah personally flourishing  the Internal Security Act (ISA) for the first time since becoming Prime Minister, although he said it would not be invoked against those who breached the gag order!


Only three weeks ago, Malaysia with Cyprus co-hosted the second Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Interfaith Dialogue themed “Interfaith understanding and co-operation for a peaceful world” in Larnaca, Cyprus, (3-5 July 2006) which issued the Lanarca Action Plan for Interfaith Understanding and Co-operation for a Peaceful World.


Malaysia was represented by a big delegation led by the Foreign Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar who made a most exemplary speech, fully in keeping with the speeches which the Prime Minister had earlier made in other international conferences in promoting interfaith dialogue and advocating freedom of religion.


In his speech in Cyprus, Hamid said:


“4.           While we speak clearly of our objective to overcome the lack of understanding of religions, races and cultures, our acts demonstrate the contrary. We need to bridge the gap of understanding in order to nurture respect and goodwill to allow for the triumph of tolerance and harmony. It is thus most fitting for ASEM to take upon itself the task and responsibility of organising this dialogue as we represent the diversities that exist within our group of Asia and Europe. The fact that this is the second in the ASEM process shows our commitment and recognition of the need for understanding and dialogue.”


But inside Malaysia, the Abdullah administration is not practising what it preached at the ASEM Interfaith Dialogue in Cyprus early this month, raising question about the government’s commitment to inter-religious understanding and dialogue.

 Hamid told the ASEM Interfaith Dialogue in Cyprus in his key-note address:

“6.           I believe the time has come for us to ask ourselves some difficult questions.  There are none among us who will disagree that dialogue is paramount element in creating awareness, understanding and appreciation.   All of us have affirmed time and again that interfaith understanding and cooperation must be stepped up so that suspicion and fear between groups are eradicated.  Yet the increasing incidence of conflict along religious   and ethnic lines belies our full and undivided commitment to this goal…


“10.        I believe the prospects are positive if we fully understand that cultural and religious diversity can be a source of strength upon which we could build respect and goodwill for a harmonious relationship. Surely, diversity and pluralism neither demean nor negate humanity; it instead enriches all God’s creations.

11.          Dialogue presupposes openness and not to impose one’s viewpoints or even to reach consensus. The results of our interaction will be meaningful and successful if we engage in productive and constructive discourse. It has become a compelling necessity with the advancement of technology and communications, where our world has grown smaller and our inter-dependency has become more crucial.”


The question that Malaysians are asking is why the Abdullah government is preaching interfaith dialogue and promoting religious freedom in international fora but doing the opposite inside the country to the extent of banning interfaith dialogues and discussions as well as warning the media to stay off religious matters – as if interfaith dialogue has become a dirty term in Malaysia.


Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had described  the government and Cabinet Ministers as “half-past six” for blindly supporting policies put to them.  Are Cabinet Ministers, particularly from the other Barisan Nasional component parties, able to justify such Cabinet endorsement of the UMNO Supreme Council decision in the national interest?



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

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