Sad and tragic Prime Minister and Cabinet do not seem to be understand the grave sentiments expressed by Yang di Pertuan Agong that he had never been more concerned about race and religious relations in his 57 years as ruler

It is most sad and tragic that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his Cabinet do not seem to understand the grave sentiments expressed by the Yang di Pertuan Agong, Kedah Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, 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 year 2014 which ended about three weeks ago had been bedevilled by a host of disasters and misfortunes like

  1. the two air crashes of MH370 on March 8 and MH 17 of July 17 with a total toll of 537 crew members and passengers of different nationalities, together with a third air disaster in one year, Air Asia QZ8501 which crashed into Java Sea with 162 victims on Dec. 28;
  2. the year-end worst floods catastrophe within living memory, with close to a million flood victims, evacuating a quarter of a million flood refugees to the various flood relief centres, created the devastation of Zero Ground zones like Manek Urai, Kg. Manjur and Kg Karangan all in Kuala Krai, Kelantan, a death toll of 25 and billions of ringgit of damage;
  3. the burgeoning multi-billion ringgit 1MDB scandal threatening to become the “mother of all financial scandals” in Malaysia;
  4. the disastrous Report of Royal Commission of Inquiry into the “mother of all problems in Sabah”, the 40-year-old nightmare of illegal immigrants in Sabah, but which turned out to be only the latest of the four-decade-old merry-go-round with no light at the end of the 40-year illegal immigrant “tunnel” in Sabah;
  5. the bleak and gloomy economic picture with the double whammy of the plunge in crude oil prices hitting a six-year low, declining by almost 60% from the middle of last year to trade below US$50 per barrel and the unprecedented depreciation of the Malaysian ringgit since the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997.

Today, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak played the role of the Great Contrarian dismissing the mounting calls on the government to brace for another grave economic and financial crisis, made not only by economists but by former Finance Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

When Najib declared that the Malaysia economy is not in crisis, he appears to justify his role as the “absentee Prime Minister” in the nation’s history, as he gets ready for another international junket.

Will Najib perform the Double Whammy of the Great Contrarian and declare that there is no basis for the Yang di Pertuan Agong to be never more concerned about race relations in the country since ascending to the throne 57 years ago or for the following statement by Sultan Abdul Halim:

“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.”

Najib will be doing the nation a great disservice by acting as the Great Contrarian, whether in denying the need to brace for another major economic crisis the nation’s history or at the most “brittle” race and religious relations in the nation’s history.

It is this concern about the country’s future as a nation that has prompted the Open Letter by 25 Eminent Malays and the snowballing of support by ordinary Malaysians, whether NGOs or NGIs, regardless of race, religion, politics or region, to reaffirm moderation as the hallmark of Malaysia’s multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural nation and to save the country from the bigots and extremists who have been rearing their ugly heads in recent years with their blasphemous claim that they are the real personification of moderation in the country.

The Yang di Pertuan Agong’s concerns have vindicated the Open Letter of the 25 Eminents and the snow-balling support of Malaysians regardless of race, religion, region or politics to reaffirm Malaysia as a moderate nation to drown out the voices of the tiny minority of bigots and extremists so that Malaysia can be a model to the world as the oasis of multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural harmony, tolerance and co-existence.

The first three Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn would have been horrified by the blasphemous claims of the political charlatans, bigots and extremists of today who are claiming to cloak their rhetoric and politics of hatred, fear, intolerance, bigotry and extremism under the banner of moderation!

This is why Malaysians should remember the first three Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein, especially after the grave sentiments of the Yang di Pertuan Agong that race and religious relations in Malaysia had never been so bad in the nation’s history since Merdeka in 1957.

Under the first three Prime Ministers, Malaysia’s foundation as a tolerant, open, liberal, democratic, multi-racial, multi-religious and secular nation with Islam as the religion of the Federation, was never doubted, questioned or challenged.

This was also the basis for Sabah and Sarawak’s Agreement, embedded in the 20 Points and 18 Points respectively for Sabah and Sarawak in the the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

In fact, for 47 years of our nation-building until 2001, this bedrock of the basis of Malaysian nation-building spelt out in the Malaysian Constitution of 1957 and 1963 was never doubted, questioned or challenged – but things began to go awry after 2001.

I have no doubt that the country’s first three Prime Ministers would have understood the Yang di Pertuan Agong’s grave concerns about being never more worried about race and religious relations in the country, and would have taken positive and pro-active measures to address concerns, including swift and immediate response to the Open Letter by the 25 Eminent Malays.

Can we expect the present Prime Minister to show similar qualities as the first three Prime Ministers and to have a meeting with the 25 Eminent Malays before he embarks on another international junket in keeping with his reputation as “Absentee Prime Minister”?

Tunku Abdul Rahman’s 112th birthday anniversary falls on Feb. 8. Let Malaysians remember Tunku’s legacy of moderation in a meaningful way to help ensure that Malaysia will forever be a land for moderates with no place for the bigots or extremists of any ilk.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah