Proposal for a meeting of Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat top leaders on an agenda and blueprint for National Reconciliation to rebuild National Unity
This year is the 50th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963.
It is most unfortunate, sad and shocking that the greatest threat to the unity and solidarity of Malaysia in its 50-year history should also take place this year – the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais)’s illegal and unconstitutional raid of Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) and seizure of Malay and Iban Bibles yesterday.
It is no exaggeration to say that Jais’ illegal and unconstitutional raid of Bible Society of Malaysia and seizure of Malay and Iban Bibles is the greatest blow and setback to the unity and cohesion of the 50-year Malaysian nation-building process capable of causing grave disunity, discord and even disintegration of the nation.
I fully agree with the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) that the shocking raid and seizure of the Malay and Iban Bibles is a violation of the Christians’ constitutional right to freedom of religion and an “aggressive attack” on interfaith ties in Malaysia.
Even more serious, it is the most serious setback for Malaysian nation-building in the past five decades, undermining the very basis of the multi-religious fabric of the Malaysian nation, giving cause to grave concerns in Sabah and Sarawak whether the fundamental terms for their joining the peninsular states – the 20 Points for Sabah and 18 Points for Sarawak – to form the Malaysian federation and other solemn agreements agreed by the Putrajaya like the 10-Point Solution to the Bible controversy would really be honoured.
This is why the reactions by Sarawakians and Sabahans to the Jais’ illegal and unconstitutional raid of the BSM and seizure of Malay and Iban Bibles have been so strong and even ferocious, including those from Barisan Nasional camps.
For instance, Sarawak’s Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr. James Masing did not mince words when he lambasted federal leaders as “gutless” for “tip-toeing” around the Allah issue with an “unsound policy to appease everyone”.
He said Federal Cabinet Ministers “must be brave enough to take the bull by the horns and decide once and for all which set of religious laws Malaysians must abide by”.
He said the raid was “reflection of a policy gone wrong”, declaring:
“We cannot have one nation with two sets of religious laws applicable on the same issue. It wouldn’t work. It can’t work. Malaysian leaders must decide once and for all which set of religious laws Malaysians must abide by.
“This way Malaysians will have a clear choice on what to do. The law should be applicable to all, whether they stay in Lubok Antu (in Sarawak), Pulau Penyu (Sabah) or Kuala Perlis.”
Masing said the government’s policy on the Allah issue was not based on principle, but based on appeasement and is the cause of rising religious tension in the country.
He said religious policies should not be decided based on political expediency.
“They must be based on sound religious principles tempered by centuries of divine wisdom.”
Masing reminded the federal leaders that people in Sabah and Sarawak travel.
“They go to the peninsula to work. How is it that they are allowed to use the word in one half of the country and not allowed in the other half?”
Masing raised a most relevant point when he asked why the use of the word is an issue now.
“Why is it a problem now? What makes Muslims in the peninsula have the copyright to the word?”
He asked if the religious freedom enshrined in the Federal Constitution had been dumped for “limited freedom of religion”.
“Do we have religious freedom or is it restricted now?”
In Sabah, former Cabinet Minister and Barisan Nasional component party UPKO President Tan Sri Bernard Dompok reminded the Federal Government that the raid was ultra vires the Federal Constitution and against the spirit of the 10-Point Solution reached between the government and Christian groups, which was endorsed by the Federal Cabinet in April 2011.
Under the 10-point solution announced in 2011 by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Idris Jala, Putrajaya would allow the import of Bibles in all languages, including the Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia translation.
The deal also states that Bibles can be printed locally in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.
I want to remind Najib of his promise in his New Year Message three days ago to ensure that in the new year of 2014, Malaysians would not be as divided and fractious as in the general elections year of 2013.
Najib had said:
“I believe Malaysia is strong enough to survive heated debate. With time, the divisions will heal, as we see our nation continue to grow and develop, and as we realise that those we disagree with are still our neighbours, our colleagues – and our friends. But I also believe that we should reaffirm our commitment to the peaceful coexistence that defines our nation.
“We must be active in the pursuit of unity. Our stability, and our progress, depend on it. That is why I have established the National Unity Consultative Council, which will report to the Cabinet with recommendations on what we can do to bring Malaysians closer together.
“Our responsibility – and my priority – is to secure the continued peace, stability and progress on which Malaysia’s future rests. Rebuilding our national unity, and encouraging public debate based on respect, is a great part of that. As the new year unfolds, you will hear more from my government about how we will do so.”
Nobody has any high hopes that the National Unity Consultative Council, like the long string of its predecessors, could make any significant impact, especially as in less than 48 hours of the Prime Minister’s 2014 New Year message, Malaysia has been plunged into one of the worst times in terms national disunity, division and dissension, raising grave questions about the sanctity of constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and the whole gamut of human rights.
The Prime Minister is nowhere to be heard or seen, and Malaysians do not know whether he is in the country or abroad. The Deputy Prime Minister could only pour oil on flames while all other Cabinet Ministers have run for cover.
This is not the way to run the country or to deliver Najib’s promise in his New Year message that “as the new year unfolds”, Malaysians will hear more from the government about how it is going about to rebuild our national unity.
As the government seems to be clueless how to rebuild our national unity, let me propose a meeting of Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat top leaders on an agenda and blueprint for national reconciliation to rebuild national unity.
Let top leaders from the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat political coalitions meet within a week or two to discuss the agenda and blueprint of National Reconciliation to Rebuild National Unity.
The ball is in the court of the Prime Minister and the Barisan Nasional Cabinet.