I would expect the mainstream mass media tomorrow to treat the Ceramah Perdana with contempt as if there was hardly a crowd at all. But if the Ceramah Perdana in Kuala Terengganu last night had been a Barisan Nasional one, both the electronic and printed mass media would have crowed no end and claimed that some 250,000 people had turned up for the ceramah.
There werenít 250,000 people at the Ceramah Perdana in Kuala Terengganu last night but there was an impressive turn-out of some 100,000 people.
This episode is a mark of the great obstacles and hurdles that the Barisan Alternative parties must overcome in order to reach out to Malaysians throughout the country.
Tonight we are making history in more sense than one. We are holding the first inter-party, inter-political, inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue 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.
It is our intention that tonightís forum be the first of a series of inter-party, inter-religious and inter-civilisational forums to be held in various parts of the country and which will involve leaders from all religions and all political parties, both Barisan Alternative and Barisan Nasional if they are willing, 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.
Under the inspiration of the then Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, there had been inter-civilisational dialogues in recent years under the brilliant leadership of Dr. Chandra Muzaffar until he was summarily removed as the Director of the Centre for Civilisational Dialogue at the University of Malaya - but these were at the academic level not directly touching the lives of ordinary men and women in Malaysia.
The lack of inter-party, inter-political, inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue in the past 43 years of nationhood is a reflection of the lack of maturity of the nation-building process and the reason why it was so easy for the Barisan Nasional to make the last general election the dirtiest in the nationís history with its campaign of falsehoods and fear against the Barisan Alternative by arousing baseless fears on the primordial issues of ethnicity, culture and religion.
We are making history in another sense. I want to thank Terengganu PAS Mentri Besar, Haji Hadi Ahmad Awang and four senior state executive councillors, Mustapha Ali (Economic Development, Petroleum and Industry), Harun Taib (Education, Dakwah and Syariah Implementation), Wan Abdul Muttalib Embong (Local Government and Housing) and former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas (Special Tasks & Hisbah) for agreeing to participate in tonightís forum with the topic ""PAS Terengganu Government - Towards A Just Malaysia".
In coming here tonight to explain the policies of the new Terengganu state government and answer questions from the public about their plan to implement the Barisan Alternativeís common manifesto of a just Malaysia in Terengganu, Hadi and the four senior excos are putting into practice the Barisan Alternative principles of accountability, transparency and good governance.
I hope their example tonight will not only inspire Barisan Nasional state governments to face the public in an open dialogue about their policies, but also the Federal Government to do likewise - which will be the most effective cure to get rid of deadwood in the Federal Jurassic Cabinet, where in less than a month of its formation, Malaysians can see Ministers who not only fail to be "hands-on" in their Ministerial duties, but are both "hands-off" as well as "minds-off".
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 of Nov. 29, 1999, the Chinese voters in Bukit Bendera were told by the MCA and Gerakan that if I was elected as Member of Parliament, there would 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 MCA and Gerakan campaign of falsehoods and fear created an impact on the Chinese voters and was the major factor for the swing of the Chinese votes against the DAP and Barisan Alternative parties - based on completely baseless fears.
It is significant that immediately after capturing the Terengganu State Government, the Mentri Besar Hadi Ahmad Awang announced the lifting of the ten-year ban on the rearing and slaughter of pigs in Terengganu, a ban imposed by the UMNO-led state government with the full backing of the sole MCA State Executive Councillor in the state.
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.
Although DAP and PAS are both in the Barisan Alternatif, important differences between the two parties will remain.
One of the important differences between DAP and PAS is the question of an Islamic state. The people should not expect the DAP and PAS to be in total agreement on all issues and subjects, as then there would be no need for two separate parties and they might as well merge into one party.
In the next five years, the people should be able to understand what are the areas of common agreement as well as differences between the DAP and PAS, and even more important, know what are the baseless fears drummed up by the Barisan Nasional parties in order to discredit the Barisan Alternatif.