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Cabinet failure yesterday to reaffirm that Malaysia is a secular and not an Islamic State a great letdown bringing to the very fore the question whether the upcoming 50th Merdeka anniversary celebrations is to commemorate 50 years of a secular Malaysian nation or the beginning of a Malaysian Islamic State
(Parliament, Thursday): I was waiting for the Cabinet to issue a policy statement after its meeting yesterday to clarify and correct the pronouncement by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Tuesday that Malaysia is not a secular state but an Islamic state driven by the fundamentals of Islam.
But there had been total silence from the Cabinet after its weekly Wednesday meeting yesterday.
The Cabinet failure to reaffirm that Malaysia is a secular and not an Islamic State is a great letdown bringing to the very fore the question whether the upcoming 50th Merdeka anniversary celebrations is to commemorate 50 years of a secular Malaysian nation or the beginning of a Malaysian Islamic State!
Some MCA leaders have made noises in the media that Najib’s declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic state and not a secular state flies in the face of “numerous documents, including the Reid Report, the Cobbold Commision and a 1988 Supreme Court decision” but why was there not a single one of the four MCA Ministers, as well as the Gerakan, MIC, SUPP, PBS and other non-Muslim Barisan Nasional (BN) Ministers who dared to raise this important subject to ask for a public Cabinet reaffirmation that Malaysia had always been conceived to be a secular and not an Islamic State?
Is this to be another MCA “sandiwara” – using low-level officials to question Najib’s statement that Malaysia is an Islamic and not a secular state while top MCA leaders assured the UMNO leadership of their support in Cabinet and the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council?
This was what happened when former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mdohamad made the unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional declaration that Malaysia was an Islamic State at the Gerakan national delegates conference on Sept. 29, 2001 – the “929 declaration”.
This was what I said the very next day, 30th September 2001 in my media statement:
More shocks were on the way, for a week later on 5th October 2001, at a hastily convened emergency meeting of the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council, all the Barisan Nasional leaders gave categorical and unreserved endorsement to Mahathir’s declaration that Malaysia was an Islamic State.
In my first immediate response to the “929 Declaration”, I had warned that “it undermines the secular basis of Malaysia and would have far-reaching consequences for the Malaysian nation-building process in the 21st century”.
In the past six years since Mahathir’s “929 Declaration”, Malaysia has taken many steps backwards inimical to the Merdeka social compact agreed by the forefathers of the major communities to defend, promote and preserve the secular, multi-religious and progressive character of nation-building.
In my 30 years in Parliament from 1969 to 1999, no MP whether from the ruling coalition or the opposition had spoken about an Islamic State, but when I returned to Parliament in 2004 after an absence of five years, there had been such a sea-change in Parliament to the extent that an UMNO MP could openly make the taunt without any objection from any BN parliamentarian that those who did not like Malaysia becoming an Islamic State could leave the country!
Just as Mahathir’s “929 Declaration” had set in motion the regression of Malaysia from a secular state towards UMNO’s concept of an Islamic State, Najib’s July 17 statement (“717 Declaration”) if unchallenged and uncorrected will see another phase in the further undermining of the fundamental cornerstone of Malaysian nation building where Islam is the official religion with Malaysia remaining a secular and not an Islamic state.
Unless the Cabinet takes the first opportunity to reaffirm that Merdeka social contract that Malaysia, with Islam as the official religion, is a secular and not and not an Islamic state, many Malaysians will be asking what is meaning of celebrating the 50th Merdeka anniversary of nationhood next month.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman