Open Letter to Ministers an hour before Cabinet meeting – Don’t be “half-past six Cabinet” of “deadwood” Ministers, and don’t be moral pygmies and political dwarfs but take a stand on behalf of present and future generations on the great issue of right and wrong in Malaysia

Only last Thursday, I had the occasion to comment that the Malaysian Cabinet Edition 2015 is probably the worst in the 58-year Malaysian history – acting like the traditional three monkeys with eyes that see not, ears that hear not and mouths that speak not.

This was when the Cabinet failed to repudiate and reprimand the Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan for his irresponsible and reckless statement that the restoration of local government elections could worsen racial polarisation in support of the equally bizarre statement by the PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang that the restoration of the third vote could cause a repeat of the May 13 race riots.

Abdul Rahman is the most irresponsible Local Government Minister in the nation’s history for no other Local Government Minister had ever made such a statement in the past 50 years since the suspension of local government elections on March 1965 on the ground of threat from Indonesian Confrontation.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had dismissed the previous Cabinet as “half-past six” and the former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin was no less caustic when he talked about “deadwood” Ministers.

But the Cabinet 2015 seems set on proving Mahathir and Daim right in their condemnation of the quality, character and even work ethics of the current batch of Cabinet Ministers.

The Cabinet 2015 had already totted up several major failures in the first month of the new year, including:

  • Failure to conduct major and proper public inquiry such as a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the very botched-up disaster management, whether response, relief or reconstruction of the 2014 Floods, the worst floods catastrophe in living memory in Malaysia, resulting in 25 dead, a million flood victims, quarter of a million evacuees in flood relief centres and billions of ringgit of losses.
  • Moral and Political Cowardice in failing to address the scandal of the Home Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi’s gross breach of Ministerial propriety, code of conduct and even violation of Official Secrets Act when he wrote the infamous letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) vouching for the character and integrity of an alleged gambling kingpin Paul Phua standing trial in Las Vegas, Nevada for illegal gambling, contradicting the earlier Malaysian police account to FBI – without the consent or knowledge of the Inspector-General of Police, the Foreign Ministry, the Cabinet and the Prime Minister.
  • Failure to stop the crackdowns against human rights, whether against university students and academicians, like the refusal to renew the contract of the University of Malaya deputy vice chancellor Professor Dr. Mohd Hamdi Abdul Shukor because of his refusal to support UMNO, the punitive action against the UM8 student leaders in the University of Malaya for organising a political talk or against freedom of expression, like police raid of the office of Malaysiakini’s cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Hague, better known as Zunar, in police investigations under the Sedition Act.

Today, the Cabinet 2015 will be facing an acid test, as to what it proposes to do with the racist fulminations of the Minister for Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob when urging Malays consumers to boycott Chinese businesses to compel them to lower prices.

Sabri’s clarification of his earlier racist fulminations on Facebook has only added insult to injury, putting salt to the wound of plural Malaysia having a Minister who is such a rabid racist.

If Sabri had called on consumers to unite against profiteering and unethical businesses, he would have received universal support, but he chose to do what should be an anathema for any Minister or political leader in multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural Malaysia – to communalise and incite racial and religious hatred and venom on an issue which has nothing to do with race or religion.

Sabri had compounded the sins of rabid racism with rank dishonesty when he resorted to lies and falsehoods to incite racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension in the country.

In fact, he committed four sins in two short sentences when he said

“Malays are still refusing to boycott (Old Town White Coffee) what more when its owner is said to be the DAP Ngeh family of Perak who are known to be anti-Islam.

“As long as the Malays don’t change, the Chinese will take the opportunity to oppress the Malays.”

First, fanning racialism and hatred in inciting Malays to boycott Chinese businesses.

Second, spreading the lie that Old Town Bhd is owned by “DAP Ngeh family” when the information is in the public domain that former DAP Perak Chairman for 16 years, Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham and his family does not own a single sen of share in Old Town Bhd.

Third, fanning religious hatred, conflict and tensions by spreading the false accusation that DAP leaders are “known to be anti-Islam”.

Fourth, spreading the lie that the Malays are oppressed by the Chinese, when the greatest oppressors of the Malays and bumiputras are the Umno-putras.

The Ismail Sabri episode bears out the concern expressed by the Yang di Pertuan Agong two weeks ago that he had never been more concerned about race and religious relations in the country since ascending to the throne 57 years ago in 1958 – a year after the country’s independence.

The Yang di Pertuan Agong had said: “I have been on the throne for 57 years. Even though I have witnessed many incidents, I have never been this worried about race and religious relations, which are becoming brittle.”

The Yang di Pertuan Agong is right. Never before in the past 58 years have a Minister behaved in so irresponsible, reckless and racist a fashion as to call for a boycott along racial lines such as urging the Malay consumers to boycott the Chinese businesses.

What is the Cabinet going to do on the Ismail Sabri issue?

Treat Ismail Sabri as a hero like the gathering of former UMNO Youth leaders yesterday, with Ministers lining behind Sabri with “We Are All Ismail Sabri” endorsements?

Another “traditional three monkeys” performance of eyes that see not, ears that hear not and mouths that speak not?

Or take the bull by the horns and rise up to the occasion to take a clear-cut stand on the great Rights and Wrongs in our country, one of which must be “Zero tolerance for racism and extremism”.

Malaysia is at an important cross-roads in our nation-building. Are we to continue on the path of moderation and multi-racialism to build unity, harmony and national greatness or are we going to allow extremism, intolerance and rank racialism and religious bigotry to hijack the nation-building process, resulting in national division and discord and paving the way for Malaysia to join the ranks of the failed states.

The Ismail Sabry issue is not an issue of UMNO or BN, nor is it an issue of Malay, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans, or Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs.

The issue is whether a rabid racialist who could openly call for a confrontation of races, i.e. Malay consumers boycott Chinese businesses, is qualified to continue as a Minister of a government of a plural nation and whether all other Ministers, whether UMNO, MCA, Gerakan, the Sabah and Sarawak BN parties, are prepared to be identified with Ismail by continuing to serve in the same Cabinet.

This is why I am writing this Open Letter to all Ministers an hour before the Cabinet meeting today with the message: “Don’t be ‘half-past six Cabinet or ‘deadwood’ Ministers, and don’t be moral pygmies and political dwarfs!”

Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region, gender or age expect the Cabinet Ministers to take a stand on behalf of the present and future generations on the great issues of right and wrong in Malaysia!

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah