Cabinet’s indecisive, confused and  blumbling  decision to "halt open debate on sensitive issues" too wide as to  border on being unconstitutional and   too vague to be meaningful or binding on UMNO and UMNO Youth extremists for long

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang 

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Yesterday, MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik announced that the Cabinet has reached an unanimous consensus that

He said: If Liong Sik had correctly represented what was decided by the Cabinet yesterday, then the Cabinet could not have come to a more indecisive, confused and  bumbling decision, which is too wide as to  border on being unconstitutional and   too vague to be meaningful or binding on UMNO and UMNO Youth extremists for long.

Was the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Mohtar Abdullah, consulted before  the Cabinet made the decision as announced by Liong Sik  to ensure that it is fully compatible with the present Constitution?

What does Liong Sik mean when he said that all "sensitive issues" must not be "discussed or overplayed in the open"?  Is he implying that there are two types of "sensitive issues", one which should not be "discussed in the open" and the second type which should not be "overplayed in the open" and if there are such two types of "sensitive issues" can he enlighten and guide the Malaysian people?

Liong Sik should know that under the laws and  Constitution there is only one type of "sensitive issues" concerning four subjects which cannot be questioned, let alone "overplayed", for they have were entrenched in the 1971 Constitution amendment as "sensitive issues". A person who questions the status and position of anyone of the  four "sensitive issues", namely  Article 153 on  Malay special rights,  Article 152 on the National Language and the position of the languages of other communities, Malay rulers and citizenship, would be committing a sedition offence.  This applies also to Members of Parliament who have been stripped of the traditional parliamentary immunity on these entrenched "sensitive issues".

Liong Sik said the Cabinet agreed yesterday that anyone in the country can discuss anything provided it is done in the right forum, time and place.  Liong Sik and the Cabinet have been badly advised,  as under the Constitution as amended by the Barisan Nasional, the questioning of anyone of the four entrenched "sensitive issues" in the Constitution is immediately an offence of sedition, regardless of the forum, time and place.

It is most astounding  that Liong Sik is unaware of such a basic constitutional position in Malaysia. Could the rest of the Cabinet be as ignorant as Liong Sik?

Liong Sik and the Cabinet should know that although the 1971 Constitution amendment imposed a total prohibition against any questioning of the four entrenched "sensitive issues", it allows open and public discussion and debate on the implementation of the provisions, as for instance, questioning the mistakes and abuses in the implementation of special privileges.

Is the Cabinet decision yesterday an extension of the ban on public discussion and questioning of the four entrenched "sensitive issues" to even their implementation? If so, then the Cabinet has strayed into the unconstitutional zone.

As the entrenched "sensitive issues" are very clearly prohibited from public questioning - which means their being allowed to be  "overplayed" simply does not arise -  the Cabinet decision yesterday did not make much sense.

The issue before the country and  Cabinet was not any challenge to Malay special rights, which could be easily dealt with  by the Attorney-General under the Sedition Act, but because of extremist, desperate and bankrupt UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders who are trying to plunge the country into a communal crisis with a synthetic political crisis to regain Malay political support.

It is most unfortunate that the  silence of the Cabinet on the unruly, abusive and gangsterish UMNO Youth demonstration at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall last Friday  had given the distinct impression that it was condoning or at least dare not denounce such lawless, insensitive and unacceptable mayhem, which is not calculated to enhance multi-ethnic confidence in the leadership qualities of the present Cabinet.

What the Cabinet should have done yesterday was  to take decisive action to restore public confidence by directing the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai, to uphold the law without fear or favour and not to allow any quarter, whether UMNO Youth or Barisan Alternative Youth, to go on an anti-national rampage undermining inter-racial harmony, as threatening to burn down the Selangor Chinese Assembly.

It is also being questioned as to why the announcement of the Cabinet decision was not made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, not only because of the importance of the subject affecting all races in the country, but also because Liong Sik’s credentials have come under question even among UMNO and UMNO Youth circles.

For instance, UMNO Youth deputy leader, Datuk Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir had publicly challenged the truth of Liong Sik’s claim at the post-Cabinet press conference on  September 22, 1999 that  the Cabinet had "responded positively" and "accepted" the Suqiu demands.

Will Liong Sik’s press conference statement yesterday have much weight with UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders and their supporters?

Is this why Utusan Malaysia, which had carried several front-page headlines to drum up the synthetic political crisis over Malay special rights, gave Liong Sik’s post-Cabinet announcement a very inconspicuous page-two coverage today?

UMNO Youth’s unruly, abusive and gangsterish demonstration at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall last Friday has again raised very poignantly the question whether Malaysia is a government of laws or a government of men, where the police will decide whether offences are committed not based on whether  laws have been broken but on the personalities involved.

The ball is in the court of the police, and the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai cannot evade the question as to why the police has not commenced investigations against Abdul Aziz and the gangsterish UMNO Youth demonstrators last Friday.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman