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Chong Eng’s emergency motion on Revathi on Monday - Parliament should set example to Malaysians that it is capable of debating sensitive issues concerning national unity, religion, family unity and human rights in a sober, rational and responsible manner
(Parliament, Friday) : I have today sent an urgent fax to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi asking for a meeting with DAP MPs and leaders on pressing sensitive issues of national unity, religion, family and human rights highlighted by recent heart-rending controversies like the Subashini, Revathi and Marimuthu cases.
There are great and increasing concerns in our plural society about inter-religious tolerance and harmony as illustrated by the recent week-long prayers by Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Taoists to seek divine intervention to spread awareness of the importance of upholding the fundamental provisions of the Malaysian Constitution with regard to Article 11on freedom of religion and Article 4 on the Constitution as the supreme law of Malaysia.
In a written reply to the DAP MP for Ipoh Barat, M. Kulasegaran on Wednesday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Nazri Aziz said that the Prime Minister had an open attitude and discussed matters of religion with religious-based non-governmental bodies. It is in this spirit that we are asking for this meeting with the Prime Minister.
Ever since the founding of the nation, Bapa Malaysia and the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, set the example of an open, tolerant and accommodative attitude on religious rights and sensitivities which had spared the multi-religious country from religious conflict, discord and even misunderstanding in the best part of half-a-century of nationhood.
If Tunku Abdul Rahman is still alive, I am sure he will be the first to be very distressed by the spate of heart-rending cases affecting religion which split up families – in the Marimutu case, the couple had been married for 21 years with seven children - apart from causing inter-religious strain and national disunity as well as giving Malaysia a bad name internationally.
During the winding-up of the committee stage debate on the 2007 Supplementary Budget on Wednesday, Nazri said that the Attorney-General is working on a mechanism to discuss contentious issues relating to religion and conversion without affecting racial unity in the country.
He said such a mechanism was necessary because sensitive issues like religion could not be discussed “arbitrarily” as it involved religious sensitivity and the rights of ethnic groups. He said even Parliament was not the appropriate place to discuss sensitive issues.
He urged everyone to be patient and to wait for the mechanism that was being prepared by the AG’s Chambers.
If Nazri is serious about his call to everyone to be patient until the Attorney-General Chambers have come up with such a mechanism, he should take all necessary actions to ensure that families which had been split up by controversial actions of state religious departments could be re-united until such a mechanism is in place.
In Revathi’s case, her 100-day detention for Islamic rehabilitation at the Faith Rehabilitation Centre in Ulu Yam had been extended for another 80 days by the Malacca Syariah Court on the ground that “she did not co-operate during the 100-day detention”, prolonging her forced separation from her husband and 15-month baby daughter.
It is shocking that Malaysia has a new form of ISA-like powers of detention which could be extended indefinitely.
Nazri’s contention that Parliament is not the appropriate place to discuss these spate of issues impinging on religious rights and sensitivities cannot go unchallenged.
No one single Minister, even if he is assigned to be in charge of parliamentary affairs on behalf of the Prime Minister, should decide what Parliament can or cannot do. MPs and the country should be very wary about any proposal that a subject should be regarded as sensitive and be removed from the ambit of Parliamentary debate.
Any decision that Parliament should not debate sensitive religious issues should only be made by a proper consensus of Parliament, not just majority of the Barisan Nasional MPs but also with the agreement of Opposition MPs.
DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam Chong Eng has given notice to move an emergency motion to debate the Revathi case on Monday.
Parliament should set an example to Malaysians that it is capable of debating sensitive issues concerning national unity, religion, family unity and human rights in a sober, rational and responsible manner.
DAP MPs give a public undertaking that they will be sober, rational, responsible and unemotional in the debate in Parliament to address very real issues affecting Malaysians on religious rights and sensitivities, family unity and values, human rights and national unity – and we urge Barisan Nasional MPs to make a serious commitment likewise to prove that Parliament is relevant to the people’s concerns and capable of rising to the occasion to have a responsible and mature debate on these sensitive issues.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman