Closing remarks by Lim Kit Siang at the Inter-Religious Dialogue organized by Pakatan Rakyat held at The Club, Bukit Utama Golf Course on Wednesday, 10th February 2010 at 10.30 pm:
Malaysia would have been spared the religious troubles of the past month if inter-religious dialogues had been institutionalized as an important aspect of nation-building in the past five decades
The Pakatan Rakyat Leadership Council decided on 31st January 2010 to convene tonight’s inter-religious dialogue because we believe that the overwhelming majority of Malaysians from all religions are men and women of good will and good sense who want religion to unite and not divide, to build and not to destroy, the nation.
During the course of the historic dialogue tonight, bringing together representatives from all the great religions in Malaysia to freely and frankly exchange views and share their common concerns for the best welfare of the country, I was struck by the thought that Malaysia would have been spared the religious troubles of the past month if inter-religious dialogues had been institutionalized as an important aspect of nation-building in the past five decades.
Bapa Malaysia and the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, established the Inter-Religious Organisation to provide a common platform to bring representatives of all religions together to work for the common good and it is most unfortunate that Tunku’s initiative was discarded in the past few decades.
Tonight’s inter-religious dialogue is a historic one. As Dr. Herman Shastri has said, the mechanism of trust has broken down and in our challenge and task to rebuild this mechanism of trust, regular inter-religious dialogues among the different faiths in the country plays an important part.
We pride in holding out to the world that Malaysia is a model multi-religious country in the international campaign to promote tourism to Malaysia. Our leaders go on international forums to advocate inter-civilisational and inter-religious dialogues.
But the greatest anomaly is that inter-religious dialogues in the country are not encouraged by the authorities concerned, so much so that Pakatan Rakyat has to take this initiative to organize this historic inter-religious dialogue tonight to address the recent spate of attacks on places of worship of different faiths, which is giving Malaysia such a bad name internationally.
The Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has come out with his 1Malaysia slogan and concept. What is 1Malaysia?
I have always advocated that the objective of nation-building is to create a Malaysian who regards himself as a Malaysian first and his race (whether Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban), religion (whether Muslim, Christian,Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh) or region second.
But over the years, I had not found any Barisan Nasional leader endorsing my definition of the objective of Malaysian nation-building.
I was pleasantly surprised that this definition has been adopted in the 1Malaysia Government Transformation Programme (GTP) Roadmap – “a nation where, it is hoped, every Malaysian perceives himself or herself as Malaysian first, and by race, religion, geographical region or socio-economic background second”. (p 11)
But is the Barisan Nasional government really serious about this objective of Malaysian nation-building?
If so, there would have been no need for any 1Malaysia slogan and concept for Malaysia today would be a 1Malaysia in fact and reality!
Let tonight’s event be the belated but historic start of the institutionalization of inter-religious dialogues as an important contribution to Malaysian nation-building, involving all stakeholders including the ruling parties.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor