Call of 25 prominent Malays for moderation will fall on Najib’s deaf ears and only ordinary Malaysians transcending party politics, race, religion or region can ensure the triumph of moderation and save the country from the perils of extremism and intolerance

It is indeed the irony of ironies. The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak travels the world to preach moderation, and even founded the Global Movement of Moderates, but at home in Malaysia, he shies away from taking a stand against extremism although the cause of moderation is facing its worst attack on the nation’s history.

This is why the Open Letter yesterday by a group of 25 prominent Malay personalities calling on moderate Malays, Muslims and Malaysians to stand up and be counted and to speak out against extremist, immoderate and intolerant voices have struck such a responsive national chord, coming like a breath of fresh in a very polluted atmosphere.

The 25 signatories said:

“Given the impact of such vitriolic rhetoric on race relations and political stability of this country, we feel it is incumbent on us to take a public position and urge for an informed and rational dialogue on the ways Islam is used as a source of public law and policy in Malaysia.

“More importantly, we call on the prime minister to exercise his leadership and political will to establish an inclusive consultative committee to find solutions to these intractable problems that have been allowed to fester for too long.

“We also urge more moderate Malaysians to speak up and contribute to a better informed and rational public discussion on the place of Islamic laws within a constitutional democracy and the urgency to address the breakdown of federal-state division of powers and finding solutions to the heart-wrenching stories of lives and relationships damaged and put in limbo because of battles over turf and identity.”

The 25 prominent Malays include retired senior civil servants such as former Secretaries-General, Directors-General, ambassadors and prominent Malay individuals who have contributed much to Malaysian society, is a roster of Towering Malays/Malaysians representing the cream of the best produced by the nation.

They comprise former Secretaries-General Tan Sri Datuk Abdul Rahim bin Haji Din (Home Affairs), Tan Sri Ahmad Kamil Jaafar (Foreign Affairs), Tan Sri Dr. Aris Othman (Finance), Tan Sri Datok Mohd Sheriff bin Mohd Kassim (Finance), Tan Sri Nuraizah Abdul Hamid (Energy, Communications and Multimedia); former Deputy Secreatry-General Dato’ Zainuddin Bahari (Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism); former Directors-General Tan Sri Dr. Ismail Merican (Health), Tan Sri Dato’ Dr. Mustaffa Babjee (Veterinary Services), Dato’ Zainal Abidin Ahmad (Malaysian Timber Industry Board); Cardiothoracic Surgeon and Core Founder, National Heart Institute Tan Sri Dr. Yahya Awang; former Court of Appeal judge Dato’ Seri Shaikh Daud Md Ismail; Past President of Malaysian Bar, Puan Hendon Mohamad; former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Universiti Sains Malaysia Dato’ Dr. Sharom Ahmat; former Senior Regional Advisor UNDP Datuk Anwar Fazal; former ambassadors Dato’ Abdul Kadir bin Mohd Deen, Dato’ Dali Mahmud Hashim, Dato’ Emam Mohd Haniff Mohd Hussein, Dato’ Noor Farida Ariffin, Dato’ Redzuan Kushairi, Dato’ Syed Arif Fadhillah; former Lt. Gen (Rtd) Dato’ Maulob Maamin; former SUHAKAM Commissionert Dato’ Ranita Hussein; former Assistant Governor, Bank Negara Dato’ Latifah Merican Cheong; Representative of Women’s Voice Dato’ Faridah Khalid and President of Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE) Datin Halimah Mohd Said.

Unfortunately, the call of these 25 Towering Malays/Malaysians are most likely to fall on Najib’s deaf ears as one quality the Prime Minister has demonstrated to be singularly lacking is the possession of “political will”.

Najib is not going to show any “leadership” or the country would not have come to this sorry pass.

Just as he had abandoned his signature 1Malaysia policy to create a Malaysia where every Malaysian regards himself or herself as Malaysian first, and his race, religion, geography and socio-economic status second, Najib is allowing himself to be a prisoner of the extremist, immoderate and intolerant voices who represent a distinct though raucous minority.

Only the ordinary Malaysians – the silent majority – transcending party politics, race, religion or region can ensure the triumph of moderates and save Najib’s brainchild, the Global Movement of Moderates, and the country from the perils of extremism and intolerance.

As Dr. Sharom Ahmat said today:

“All we want is a peaceful Malaysia and to live in harmony with one another.

“Yet, every day, I read someone saying Islam and the Malay Rulers were being challenged. I don’t know who is challenging them. It’s a sad state of affairs.

“All of us are in our 60s and 70s. We need the younger generation in their 30s and 40s to also speak out for justice and sanity”.

All Malaysians – Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Taoists, must stand united to support the cause of moderation against extremism.

Najib had repeatedly said in international forums:

“The fight against extremism is not about Christians versus Muslims, or Muslims versus Jews, but moderates versus extremists of all religions. We therefore need to rally a coalition of moderates; those willing to reclaim their religion, and pursue the path to peace.”

What Najib said equally valid for Malaysia.

In his five years and eight months as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib had proven that he is incapable of bearing the standard of moderation in the country.

What Najib cannot do, let all moderates in Malaysia, regardless of political party, race, religion, region, age or gender stand as one to bear the standard of moderation to save multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural Malaysia from the forces of extremism, intolerance and bigotry.

This the imperative call of patriotism of the times.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah