Speech by Lim Kit Siang in the Royal Address debate on Wednesday, 16th March 2011:
Call on Cabinet on Friday to withdraw the appeal against the KL High Court judgment on the Herald “Allah” case to demonstrate government seriousness and commitment to promote 1Malaysia and inter-religious harmony
While the government’s decision yesterday to release the 35,000 copies of Bahasa Malaysia Bible detained in Port Klang and Kuching Port is to be welcomed, questions must be raised as to why it had been allowed to become an issue aggravating Malaysian unity and nation-building problems for such a length of time.
The country seems suddenly to have a very powerful Minister, who is not elected but appointed - Senator Datuk Seri Idris Jala. Is this really the case?
The announcement was not made by the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein or the Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who had earlier commented on the issue, but by an unelected Senator Minister. Why was this the case?
In fact, six hours before Idris’ announcement, Muhyiddin had announced that the Cabinet had not made any decision to release the 35,000 Bahasa Malaysia Bibles and that this subject would be discussed in the Cabinet meeting on Friday.
But six hours later, Idris announced the release of the 35,000 copies of Bahasa Malaysia Bible, with the Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail even saying that their release would not prejudice the ongoing appeal of the Herald “Allah” case.
What really happened? Why suddenly there is not need for any Cabinet decision to resolve this long-standing issue of the detention of the 35,000 Bahasa Malaysia Bibles?
It is clear that the decision to suddenly release the 35,000 Bahasa Malaysia Bibles was not because of any respect for the principle of constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion or national unity considerations, but solely because of the impending Sarawak state general elections.
This is not responsible governance and goes against the principle of :Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia policy of creating an united Malaysian nation transcending race, religion, geography or socio-economic status.
Religious harmony should not be made a political football or a vote-getting bait if the government is serious about 1Malaysia as an inclusive policy to embrace all races and religions.
Many observers have warned that in the two years since the launch of Najib’s 1Malaysia policy, national unity, race and religious relations have worsened.
Academician Farish Noor for instance had given the warning in a recent forum on public governance organized by Perdana Leadership Foundation and National Professors’ Council that Malaysia is dangerously close to absolutely breaking down if racial politics is not kept in check.
He said: “I’ve spent more than 10 years studying dysfunctional countries and I believe that we are going down the path of countries like Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh. I have seen enough race and religious riots to see that Malaysia is close to going down that path.”
Similar observations and warnings had also been made by others including a former US Ambassador to Malaysia.
The Prime Minister must demonstrate leadership and example to unite Malaysians by putting an end to fractious and divisive disputes especially over religion.
The Cabinet can take one such important step in its meeting of Friday – to withdraw the appeal against the Kuala Lumpur High Court judgment on the Herald “Allah” case to demonstrate government seriousness and commitment to promote 1Malaysia, inter-religious harmony and national unity.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor