Second pre-Cabinet Open Letter – prove Cabinet is not “half-past six” with “deadwood” Ministers by ensuring that Ismail Sabri retract and apologise for his racist call to Malay consumers to boycott Chinese businesses or cease to be a member of the Cabinet

To the Prime Minister and the Cabinet,

This is my second pre-Cabinet Open Letter in my 49 years in politics for Malaysia is in critical times and the Cabinet must show leadership and example, which it had failed to provide.

Last week, I had listed several major failures of the Cabinet in the first month of the new year 2015, viz:

  • 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 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 as 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.
  • 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.

The Cabinet has chalked up another two major failures since the Cabinet meeting last Wednesday, viz:

  • Cabinet Ministers sanctioning, condoning and defending Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail’s racist call to Malay consumers to boycott Chinese business with the 35 Ministers virtually uniting and endorsing behind Ismail with “We Are All Ismail Sabri” declaration when it should be a “We Are All Not Ismail Sabri” statement.
  • The statement from the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday, in less than half an hour of the Federal Court decision to dismiss Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal and even before the sentencing, claiming that “exhaustive and comprehensive due process…is now complete” when it had not been completed, raising grave questions about whether the Executive had been privy to the decisions of the Federal Court, and the important ensuing questions about whether there is truly independent judiciary and just rule of law in Malaysia.

These half-dozen major issues should be revisited by the Cabinet, and if not all today, it should at least act on one issue and prove that the Cabinet is not “half-past six” with “deadwood” Ministers by ensuring that Ismail Sabri retract and apologise for his racist call to Malay consumers to boycott Chinese businesses or cease to be a member of the Cabinet.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has urged the public to carefully evaluate Ismail’s call before passing judgment, saying “What we read in the newspapers is not enough”.

As a result, I have taken the trouble to search for Ismail’s original FaceBook posting, which has become the most notorious FaceBook posting of any public personality in Malaysia, so notorious and self-incriminating that Ismail has even deleted it!

Re-reading Ismail’s original FaceBook posting suggesting Malay consumers should boycott Chinese businesses, it represents a grave breach of a Minister’s oath of office to serve all Malaysians regardless of race or religion and must therefore be condemned in the strongest possible terms – and it is no business of the Cabinet to sanction, condone and defend Ismail’s statement as the Cabinet did last Wednesday.

I suggest that all the 35 Ministers today should re-read Ismail Sabri’s original FaceBook posting, and the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should ask every Cabinet Minister whether he or she is committed to be a Minister for all Malaysians, and not just for one race, religion or region, and to ask those who are not prepared to be a Minister for all Malaysians to immediately submit their resignation letters.

Ismail had defended his racist call to Malay consumers to Chinese businesses, claiming that his statement had been taken “out of context”.

I do not think there is another Cabinet in Malaysian history whose Ministers have made more excuses about their statements taken “out of context” to escape responsibility and liability for their reckless and insupportable statements and assertions.

Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein used the excuse of taken “out of context” to justify his outrageous and completely unacceptable statement that Ismails’ racist call was “not as bad as ISIS atrocities”.

Home Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi sought frequent refuge under the excuse of being “taken out of context”, as in September last year when claimed his statement on non-Malays increasingly arrogant for daring to insult the Bumiputera majority was “taken out of context”; and in October 2013, when he said his “police shoot first, ask questions later” remark was taken out of context.

The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are not strangers to this ruse and excuse of having been “taken out of context”, and Najib’s most infamous example was his praise for ISIS at an UMNO dinner in July last year.

Is it asking too much for Malaysians to expect the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the entire cohort of 35 Cabinet Ministers to be more careful and even circumspect in their public pronouncements so that they are not so prone to be “taken out of context”?

In any event, Ismail was not taken out of context when he made the racist call to Malay consumers to boycott businesses, and the Cabinet today must not shirk its duty to take a stand on behalf of all Malaysians.

May be, what I said at a dinner on Monday night, the eve of Anwar’s Federal Court decision, is worth consideration by the Cabinet – my suggestion that “old guards” withdraw from the frontlines to allow the post-Merdeka generation to take over the reins of leadership in all spheres of national life.

The present average age of the Malaysian Cabinet is 58.5 years with over half the Cabinet more than 60 years old – ranging from Idris Jusoh and Douglas Uggah Embas’ 60 years to Muhyiddin Yassin’s 68 years – with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at 62.

Some 90 per cent of Malaysia’s 30 million people are born after Merdeka on August 31, 1957. The age make-up of Malaysia’s population are: 0-14 years 28.8%; 15 -24 years 16.9%; 25 0 54 years 41.2%; 55 – 64 years 7.6%; 65 years and over – 5.5%/

Isn’t it time for a more youthful population to take over the leadership levels in all spheres of Malaysia’s national life including the Cabinet?

If we have a Cabinet which, with certain exceptions, comprise Ministers who are post-Merdeka born, we will immediately do away with half the Cabinet – people whom Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had condemned as “half-past six” and Tun Daim Zainuddin dismissed as “deadwood”.

With a more youthful Cabinet will be less prone to disasters like the Home Minister’s infamous letter to the FBI to vouch for the character and integrity of a gambling kingpin and the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister making racist calls on Malay consumers to boycott Chinese businesses.

Let us look at Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Merdeka Cabinet in 1957, which had an average age of 43.3 years – with Prime Minister Tunku 54 and Finance Minister H.S.Lee 57 the oldest members while the youngest were Education Minister Khir Johari 34 and Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein 35.

I end hoping that the Cabinet will do its duty to the nation and all Malaysians today.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah