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Have three generations of
Malaysians been living under a lie in the past 50 years that Malaysia is a
secular state with Islam as the official religion when it was all along an
(Kuala Lumpur, Wednesday): When an emergency meeting of the Barisan Nasional leaders was held yesterday, the rumour mills worked overtime from speculation about the future of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to a very imminent general election even with dates about dissolution (August 2, 2007) and polling (August 17, 2007).
I did not give credence to both as the subject which I immediately thought of was the “717 Declaration” of Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak that Malaysia is an Islamic state and not and had never been a secular state, which he made on July 17, 2007.
I was reminded of the earlier “929 Declaration” by the then Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the Gerakan national delegates conference on Sept. 29, 2001 that Malaysia was an Islamic state.
Although Mahathir’s unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional declaration received instant endorsement by two top Barisan Nasional leaders present at the function, namely Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik (then Gerakan President) and Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik (then MCA President), an emergency meeting of the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council had to be convened within a week on Oct. 5, 2001 as questions were raised as to how such an abandonment of a fundamental cornerstone of Malaysian nation-building could be made without proper consultation and full mandate of the leadership and membership of all the Barisan Nasional component parties as well as the Malaysian public.
What happened yesterday was a replay of the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council emergency meeting to give endorsement to the unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional “929 Declaration” of Mahathir – this time, to bring everyone in Barisan Nasional into line to give unquestioned support to Najib’s equally unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional “717 Declaration”.
Malaysiakini reported that at the Barisan Nasional meeting yesterday, Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, who was attending a Barisan Nasional meeting for the first time after taking over the Gerakan leadership from Keng Yaik on April 18, expressed opposition to the notion of Malaysia being deemed an Islamic State.
This was after Najib sought the input from all the Barisan Nasional leaders on his “717 Declaration”. However, Najib ended the discussion with the directive that there should not be any debate or public discussion on the subject and to “leave the matter as it stands”.
How serious was Tsu Koon’s objection to Najib’s “717 Declaration” when he had given full support to Mahathir’s “929 Declaration” six years ago? This becomes a bigger question when Tsu Koon, together with MCA and other non-Umno BN leaders agreed and allowed Najib to impose a total clampdown on any questioning of his “717 declaration”, whether in the mainstream or alternative media – clearly placing party and individual interests above national interests.
With Malaysia preparing to celebrate our 50th Merdeka anniversary, there is one crucial and critical question about nation-building we must ask ourselves - Have three generations of Malaysians been living under a lie in the past 50 years that Malaysia is a secular state with Islam as the official religion when it was all along an Islamic State?
Fifty years ago, there had been no doubt whatsoever as to what had been agreed by the major communities in the Merdeka “social contract” on the attainment of independent nationhood in 1957 about Malaya and then Malaysia being a secular state with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic state.
The first three Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein were on public record that the nation was always conceived as a secular state with Islam as the official religion but never as an Islamic State.
This was clearly spelt out in the Alliance Memorandum which was quoted by the Reid Commission Report. Those in the 1956 Alliance Committee which formulated this memorandum were Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Ismail, Tun H.S. Lee, Tun Leong Yew Loh, Tun Ong Yoke Lin, Tun Tan Siew Sin, Tun Lim Chong Eu and Tun Sambanthan.
Tun Omar Ong Yoke Lin, who just celebrated his 90th birthday, and Tun Lim Chong Eu are the two surviving members who drafted the Alliance memorandum to the Reid Commission on Sept. 27, 1956, which said:
“The religion of Malaya shall be Islam. The observance of this principle shall not impose any disability on non-Muslims professing and practicing their own religion, and shall not imply the state is not a secular state.”
Are both of them prepared to come forward to reaffirm that Malaya and Malaysia had been conceived as a secular state with Islam as the official religion and never as an Islamic State?
What has happened in the past 50 years that what was crystal-clear and indisputable about the nation being a secular state with Islam as the official religion could almost overnight be totally jettisoned with the “929 declaration” by Mahathir and now the “717 declaration” by Najib?
Why had Najib and the Umno Youth leader Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hashim repudiated their father’s lifework to create a secular Malaysia with Islam as the official religion and staking out a position both Tun Razak and Tun Hussein would have deplored – that Malaysia is an Islamic state?
There are those who felt that the unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional jettisoning of the cornerstones of nation-building has made the 50th Merdeka anniversary celebrations meaningless and there was nothing to celebrate.
I do not agree. The 50th Merdeka anniversary is an occasion which belongs to all Malaysians and not to any single political party or even to the government of the day. For this reason, all Malaysians should commemorate it and in the present circumstances, there is no more meaningful way to commemorate the 50th Merdeka anniversary than for Malaysians to reaffirm the Merdeka social contract that Malaysia is a secular state with Islam as the official religion and to reject the notion of Malaysia as an Islamic state.
We must debunk fallacies and falsehoods about the campaign to uphold the Merdeka social contract for a secular Malaysia. There is the allegation that supporting a secular Malaysia is being anti-Islam and even anti-religion. This is because the word “secular” has been corrupted to mean “anti-Islam”, “anti-religion” atheist or godless.
“Secular” does not mean anti-religion, or the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikkism and Taoism (MCCBCHTS) would not have defended a secular Malaysia.
“Secular” does not mean anti-Islam as borne out by a research finding in Indonesia last year that the majority of Indonesians, over 90 per cent of whom are Muslims, believe a secular state is more suitable for the country than an Islamic or Western-style liberal system.
Let us all ponder whether three generations of Malaysians have been living under a lie that ours is a secular state with Islam as the official religion when we had always been an Islamic State as claimed by Mahathir’s “929 Declaration” and Najib’s “717 Declaration”.
If three generations of Malaysians had not been living under a lie, then we must reclaim our heritage and reaffirm the Merdeka social contract that Malaysia had always been conceived as a secular state with Islam as the official religion and not an Islamic state.
Any attempt to transform Malaysia into an Islamic state cannot be done by surreptitious means by way of unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional declarations whether by Mahathir or Najib, but must be through the consent of all political parties and Malaysians.
Let Umno and Barisan Nasional put Mahathir’s 929 declaration” and Najib’s “717 declaration” that Malaysia is an Islamic state and not and never had been an secular state to a national referendum to ascertain whether they could secure popular endorsement from Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or territory.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman