Political Islam in Malaysia can only succeed in winning the support of Malaysians, both Muslim and non-Muslim, by demonstrating that it is full committed to the principles of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance

- Second DAP Inter-political, inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue on 
"Islam and A Just Malaysia"
Lim Kit Siang

(Kuala Lumpur, Friday): Tonight, the DAP is holding the second  inter-party, inter-political, inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue with the theme "Islam and A Just Malaysia"  to promote greater understanding and to  bring together different communities subscribing to different spiritual faiths, religious ways of life and political ideologies to work for the common good of the country and people.

I want to thank Kelantan Mentri Besar, Tok Guru Datuk Nik Aziz, Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar, Haji Abdul Halim bin Abdul Rahman, the Speaker of Kelantan State Assembly,  Hj. Wan Abdul Rahim bin Wan Abdullah and the State Executive Councillor (Social Development, Community Relations, Health and Environment) Hj. Anuar Tan bin Abdullah  and DAP Secretary-General Sdr. Kerk Kim Hock for participating in this inter-civilisational dialogue to build a new Malaysia in the new millennium.

Over the decades, the DAP had been smeared as a "chauvinist" Chinese party which is anti-Malay and anti-Islam, while PAS was  labelled as an extremist Islamic party out to deprive non-Muslims and non-Malays of their fundamental rights.

In the last general election, the Barisan Nasional conducted the dirtiest election in the nationís history, resorting to its classic but irresponsible  "divide and rule" tactics with the double-faced propaganda warning the Malay voters that "DAP Plus PAS Hancur Islam" while frightening the Chinese and non-Malay voters that a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS and an Islamic State, where there will be no
pork, no alcohol, no  temples,  no Chinese schools, beautiful women would not be able to find jobs and that there would be the  chopping of hands and feet.

The Malay voters  rejected this propaganda of falsehoods and UMNO suffered its worst electoral defeat in party history, losing Kelantan and Terengganu, and nearly losing Perlis, Kedah and Pahang. However, the Chinese and non-Malay voters succumbed to the MCA and Gerakan propaganda, resulting in a major swing of the Chinese votes against the DAP and Barisan Alternative parties.

In the next five years, the debunking of lies, falsehoods and baseless fears about DAP and PAS must be regarded as  the first nation-building challenge  in the new millennium to break the shackles of the past to build a new Malaysia based on justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

If it is true that the electoral success of PAS, whether at state or national level, would mean no pork, no alcohol, no  temples,  no Chinese schools, beautiful women would not be able to find jobs and that there would be the  chopping of hands and feet for the Chinese and non-Muslims in Malaysia, the DAP would not have co-operated with PAS to form the Barisan Alternative, for this would be antithetical to the common objective of "A Just Malaysia" which is the bedrock of understanding among the BA parties.

In fact, those who have visited Kelantan would know that there is no basis whatsoever in the MCA and Gerakan falsehoods, that pork are  displayed openly when they have to be hidden away in the markets in West Coast states under Barisan Nasional rule, that the temple with the biggest sleeping Buddha in South East Asia is to be found in Tumpat, Kelantan and that there are both Chinese primary schools as well  a Chinese Independent Secondary School in Kelantan.

Probably, the most effective way to counter the falsehoods and lies of the Barisan Nasional about PAS rule is for the Chinese and non-Malays outside Kelantan and Terengganu to visit the two states to see for themselves what is true and what is untrue, so that  the Barisan Nasional cannot  again frighten  them with these  baseless fears about PAS government and policies to deceive them into giving their votes for an unjust, corrupt and undemocratic regime.

The removal of the baseless fears about PAS government and policies however is only the first step to break the shackles of the past of inter-racial, inter-religious and inter-cultural suspicion and distrust to build a new Malaysia based on the principles of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

This should be followed by two other major objectives:

In the Muslim world, there is a strong movement promoting the view that Islam and democracy are compatible and  mutually inclusive and that the best solution to the dilemmas facing the Muslim nations lies in the ideals of tolerance, dialogue, respect, peaceful co-existence and co-operation - principles which were taught and practised by Prophet Mohammad 1,400 years ago.

The recent Iranian parliamentary elections which saw the triumph of reformists advocating democratic reforms have strengthened such a movement, based on the principle that political power, even if divine in origin, belongs to the people.

Generalization about political Islam  between different Muslim countries is difficult because each Muslim country is unique.

Malaysia is not a Muslim nation like Iran or other Middle East countries.  As a country with a substantial non-Muslim population, political Islam in Malaysia will have to respond to the challenges of a plural society not to be found in the Islamic heartland in the Middle East.

In the final analysis, political Islam in Malaysia can only succeed in winning the support of Malaysians, both Muslim and non-Muslim, by demonstrating that it is full committed to the principles of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance

This is why PAS must understand and  respect the legitimate concerns and opposition of non-Muslims to an Islamic State, not because they are anti-Islam but because of their aspiration for full citizenship rights in their  homeland.

I believe that the Barisan Alternativeís common manifesto of "A Just Malaysia" based on the principles of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance provides the recipe for inter-party, inter-political, inter-religious and inter-civilisational understanding and goodwill to build a new Malaysia.

In the past three months since the last general election, we have seen the country putting the clock back as far as these fundamental principles are concerned.

Just a few examples.

  1. The undemocratic slashing of Harakah from a biweekly to a bimonthly, followed up by the threat of more punishment if the internet Harakah is updated more than twice a month - which is not only undemocratic and a gross violation of fundamental right of free press and free speech, but shows a Cabinet which is very Jurassic without any IT mindset to catapult  Malaysia into the Information Age.  The Barisan Nasional Ministers must learn and learn fast,  that on the Internet, where information travels at the speed of light, websites are updated not once a day, but many times a day  and even all-round-the-clock - that on the Internet, the work ethos requires not a 40-hour five-day work week, but a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week work programme.
  2. The lack of accountability and transparency in the government bail-out of the failed Indah Water Konsortium sewerage privatisation project.  In the retabling of the 2000 Budget last Wednesday, Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin was  not prepared to give a living wage to those in the lowest rungs of the public service, as giving a 50 per cent rise for the lowest-paid police constables who start with RM485 a month and giving pensioners a minimum RM500 pension, but was  prepared to give a RM200 million "golden handshake" to bail out failed privatisation projects like IWK.   Before the government take-over, the IWK concessionaire had changed hands three times. The question is whether the Malaysian taxpayers, without their knowledge, had been giving three "golden handshakes" before landed with the whole failed project.
  3. Sexual Harassment in Parliament.  Not a single Barisan Nasional Minister or MP, both men and women, had the sense of justice to stand up to deplore the sexual harassment in Parliament, where two Barisan Nasional MPs made sexist remarks against two DAP women MPs, Chong Eng (Bukit Mertajam) and Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah).  Even the Human Resource Minister, Datuk Dr. Fong Chan Onn, said that the Code of Sexual Harassment in work places does not apply in Parliament, as if the spirit of the Code need not apply there.
  4. The UTM ban on Chinese New Year exhibition on the ground that it did not reflect a "multi-racial" spirit - as if Hari Raya, Deepavali and Christmas celebrations must also be banned in campus because they do not reflect a multi-racial spirit.  What is shocking is that this controversy can continue for two weeks without any intervention by the Education Minister to direct all local university administrators to undergo a special orientation course to ensure that they are sensitive and respectful of the various races, languages, religions and cultures in Malaysia.
  5. The clampdown on democracy and human rights, not only against Barisan Alternative leaders like Karpal Singh, Marina Yusuf, Mohd Ezam and Zulfifly Sulong, but even in UMNO, with the unprecedented "no contest" ban for the two top UMNO party posts - making UMNO a Stalinlist party.

All these violations of human rights would not pass muster the Barisan Alternative mottos of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance, and if the Barisan Alternative component parties can consolidate their co-operation and understanding to work  on the common objectives of A Just Malaysia, the time for the building of a New Malaysia would have begun.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman