Media Statement (2) by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, 12nd August 2008: 

Abdullah’s new edict of no forums on religious or racial issues – is his second premiership going to be even worse than 22-year Mahathir administration?

ThTo many concerned Malaysians, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, has shown his true colours yesterday – he is not that open, liberal and tolerant after all.

He laid down two edicts for his second administration:

• No open forums or dialogues on religious or racial issues as they can undermine peace and stability – no more discussion on matters of religion or race that had already been enshrined in the Federal Constitution; and

• No objection to the use of Internal Security Act and Sedition Act against those who organize such forums like the Bar Council – up to the Home Ministry to act against the Bar Council.

Is it any wonder that Malaysians react to such edicts with the premonition that the second Abdullah premiership could be even worse than the previous 22-year Mahathir administration?

In one fell swoop, Abdullah has backed his deputy, Najib Razak and the Home Minister, Syed Hamid Albar in lining up against the Bar Council for organizing the forum on Conversion to Islam to discuss the conflict of laws arising from civil and shariah court jurisdictions and Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution and freedom of expression in general, as well as gave back-handed approval if not outright embracing of the demonstrators who had successfully stormed and disrupted the Bar Council forum by dragooning the police into their service.

How ironic that Abdullah could make such a statement in the same breadth as talking about the importance of making Malaysia more attractive to encourage more foreign direct investment by having good governance – after chairing the first meeting of the Economic Council.

Was Abdullah unaware that he was in fact going against the fundamental principles and precepts of good governance in giving his blessing to the storming and disruption of the Bar Council forum by demonstrators on Saturday – which is not going to inspire confidence of investors, foreign or local, about the rule of law, the system of justice or the integrity of national institutions?

The media have published some MCA, Gerakan and MIC leaders speaking up in support of the Bar Council forum. The acid test is whether the leaders and Ministers of MCA, Gerakan, MIC and other Barisan Nasional component parties from Sabah and Sarawak are prepared to raise this issue in Cabinet tomorrow and the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council in an emergency meeting to demand that the fundamental right of the Bar Council and Malaysians to hold such forums should not be abridged or denied but must be respected and protected.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor