Cabinet meeting tomorrow must let Malaysians know whether the Barisan Nasional Malaysian government has gone bonkers

The top agenda for the Cabinet meeting tomorrow should be to answer the question right-thinking Malaysians have been asking the past week whether the Malaysian government has gone bonkers.

The week leading to the 57th Merdeka Anniversary gives new cause for concern as to the direction and future of Malaysia under the premiership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Of special concern are the speeches delivered at UMNO divisional meetings. I need refer only to three of them.

The first was the reckless and irresponsible speech by the Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan at the Rembau UMNO division meeting, concocting the lie that “three days after the opposition (Pakatan Rakyat) forms the Federal Government, it will have its first cabinet meeting, where the main agenda will be the reunion of Singapore with Malaysia” coupled with the preposterous and utterly baseless allegation that this could be done (allegedly involving an increase of 89 non-Malay parliamentary seats) without having to amend the Federal Constitution in Parliament.

This was followed by the Minister for Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob whose speech to the Gopeng UMNO delegates meeting on Merdeka eve indulged in fear-mongering alleging that the Malays were “under attack” in Malaysia.

Ismail lamented that the Malay race is divided into ‘Umno Malays’, ‘PAS Malays’, ‘PKR Malays’ and ‘DAP Malays’ when it is imperative that the Malay race should stand united as they were when the country achieved independence.

It is most shocking and just unbelievable that Ismail could give such a speech which is totally antithetical to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razaki’s 1Malaysia policy to build a Malaysian where every Malaysian regards himself or herself as Malaysian first, and race, religion, region and socio-economic status second.

Ismail has been in Najib’s Cabinet for more than five years and clearly, he is a total failure as far as passing the 1Malaysia test is concerned.

Even more shocking is that Ismail’s racist speech is totally at variance with the Merdeka Message of Najib delivered also on Merdeka Eve, in a “live” speech instead of traditionally in pre-recorded messages, to make “eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart” connection with all Malaysians about national unity and patriotism.

Didn’t the Prime Minister brief his Ministers about the theme and thrust of his Merdeka Message so that they would not be contradicting and undermining him by saying the very opposite things?

Apparently not, for the Home Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi two days after the Prime Minister’s Merdeka Day Eve Message, hammered away at the racial message when he spoke at the Umno Segambut divisional meeting yesterday, even making the shockingly irresponsible statement that “Malays are paying the price for being kind to non-Malays”, that “non-Malays are getting increasingly arrogant and are insulting the bumiputgras, the royalty and Islam”.

He said: “We allowed them to be indebted to us without needing them to pay it back; they are now insulting Islam and the Malays under the pretence of democracy, freedom of speech and globalisation”.

Zahid’s attacks on the non-Malays is most reckless, irresponsible and unfounded, especially his reckless attempt to distort and racialise the aspirations of Malaysians for good governance, rule of law, political freedoms, human rights and economic justice as a battle between Malays and non-Malays.

All these three UMNO divisional meeting speeches by the Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar and the two Cabinet Ministers are seditious – will the Attorney-General charge them under the Sedition Act?

What is incontrovertible is that all these three speeches against the unity theme and thrust of the Prime Minister’s 57th Merdeka Message.

But it is not just these speeches by UMNO Ministers, Mentri Besar and leaders which are controversial, recent government actions also raise the question whether the Barisan Nasional Malaysian government has gone bonkers.

The two most egregious examples are firstly, the mass arrests of 157 PPS members in Penang on Merdeka Day itself immediately after their participation in a Merdeka Parade, showing the Inspector-General of Police’s utter contempt not only for Merdeka Day, the Prime Minister’s Merdeka Day message of unity and patriotism but also his reckless disregard of the blemish and stain such raw abuse of power would cause to the international image and reputation of the country.

The second is the slew of sedition prosecutions against Pakatan Rakyat leaders and today, against a law professor from the leading law school in the country – Prof Azmi Sharom.

The question whether the Malaysian government has gone bonkers have become stark and brutal when we have the Prime Minister eulogising the importance of the academia on the same day when the country is faced with the worst threat to academic freedom in the nation’s history, for Azmi is the first academician to be charged with sedition in the country.

Does Najib really believe that his eulogy for academic freedom after the unprecedented prosecution of an academician for sedition would have any credibility at all?

Who will believe Najib that he and his government truly regard the scholars and intelligentsia as the country’s most important pillars, when his Attorney-General can haul an academician to court under the Sedition Act, which had never been done by the other five Prime Ministers (not even in the 22-year Dark Age of Tun Mahathir) in the past 57 years?

And what is Azmi’s sedition offence?

He is charged with saying in a press report that what happened in Perak in the 2009 Perak constitutional crisis was legally wrong.

Have Malaysia’s academic freedom in the universities degenerated to a state where law lecturers cannot give their opinion about “right and wrong” about legal cases?

Have we reached a stage where lawyers defending Azmi Sharon may themselves run the risk of committing sedition just by defending Azmi’s view on the Perak constitutional case?

Is this Najib’s meaning of academic freedom and the rule of law?

The Cabinet meeting tomorrow must let the Malaysian public know whether the Barisan Nasional government, starting with the Cabinet, has gone bonkers!

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah