Media statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Friday, 27th August 2010:
Najib should walk the talk of a zero-tolerance policy for racism and religious incitement starting with Utusan Malaysia with zero-tolerance for delay in taking action
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has finally broken his silence, declaring a "zero tolerance" policy towards racism and pledging immediate action against those found to have made racial slurs.
It is welcome although belated – provided it is not an empty declaration. Najib's belated declaration raised the question whether he means what he says for two reasons:
Firstly, it has taken him two long weeks to make his first public statement since the deplorable incident at the launch of the Merdeka celebrations of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, Kulai, where the school principal Hajah Siti Inshah binti Mansor said: "Pelajar-pelajar Cina tidak diperlukan dan boleh balik ke China ataupun Sekolah Foon Yew. Bagi pelajar India, tali sembahyang yang diikat di pergelangan tangan dan leher pelajar nampak seakan anjing dan hanya anjing akan mengikat seperti itu."
In my statement on Tuesday 17th August, I had asked the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to put the issue on top of the Cabinet meeting the next day for two reasons:
Two Cabinet meetings had since come and gone - Wednesdays 18th August and 25th August – with the issue still unresolved. What is even more unbelievable, the "outspoken" MCA President Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek could publicly deny that the government was "slow" in taking actions against the headmistresses from Johore and Kedah (where the Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Bukit Selambau headmistress accused the Chinese pupils of being insensitive towards their Muslim peers by eating in the school compound during the fasting month of Ramadan and told them to return to China if they could not respect the culture of other races").
Secondly, lack of "zero tolerance" against delay in taking action against racism. How long more is needed by Najib and Chua to establish whether the school principals of the two schools in Kulai and Bukit Selambau schools had made derogatory, offensive and insensitive remarks which completely negates Najib's 1Malaysia policy, Vision 2020, the Rukunegara and the Malaysian Constitution rendering them completely unfit to continue as school principals?
Najib should not only declare a "zero tolerance" policy for racism but also for all forms of religious incitement starting with Utusan Malaysia.
After trying to incite racial tensions and hatred with baseless and irresponsible headlines and articles like "'Elak perang besar' – Harussani enggan dedah pihak terlibat wujudkan 'perlembagaan baru'" (17th August) and "Benar, 'perang besar' boleh berlaku di Malaysia”" (18th August), Utusan Malaysia sought to stoke religious sentimens when for four consecutively days, it put Penang Chief Minister and DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng on its front-page headlines, viz:
Were these Utusan Malaysia front-page headlines to promote 1Malaysia and foster inter-racial and inter-religious understanding, accord and harmony or the reverse?
While there is controversy as to what had actually happened in the Penang mosques and suraus, what is clearly established is that there is no basis for the insinuation that Guan Eng had anything to do with the khutbahs or that he had intended any disrespect to Islam or Yang di Pertuan Agong.
The same applies to the latest “controversy” involving the DAP MP for Serdang, Teo Nie Ching, caused by Utusan Malaysia today publishing a front-page photo-story of her visiting Surau Al-Huda, Kajang in her constituency to give donations and speaking on the invitation of the surau authorities.
There is divided opinion in the Muslim community on the propriety of the event, but Nie Ching had acted out of fullest respect for Islam and her Muslim constituents and not to insult Islam.
The question that must be asked is whether Utusan Malaysia front-page coverage is to foster inter-religious harmony and goodwill or because of a larger agenda to do the opposite.
Najib should therefore walk the talk of a zero-tolerance policy for racism and religious incitement starting with Utusan Malaysia with zero-tolerance for delay in taking action.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor