DAP welcomes a public debate on the political, legal and constitutional implications of  PAS’ concept of Islamic State for plural Malaysia

Media Conference Statement (2)
- 'BA & Islamic State' book launch
Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Friday): This media conference is to launch the booklet “BA and Islamic State” in Bahasa Malaysia, English and Chinese, which is a collection of my speeches and statements touching on the issues of DAP-PAS co-operation in the Barisan Alternative and the Islamic State.

This booklet will show two things:

As I said in my speech at the Gerak seminar on human rights at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on February 21, 1999 in the run-up to the formation of Barisan Alternative, which was attended by leaders of  PAS and Muslim NGOs including PAS President Fadil Nor, the DAP had always been consistent in its  stand on the Islamic State -  that it is inappropriate and unsuitable for a plural society like Malaysia with a diversity of races, religions, cultures and languages.

In my speech I said:

“There is a view that it is ignorance or bias which is the cause for non-Muslims unable to accept the objective of an Islamic state. This is not the case and PAS leaders must understand the reasons for such views, among them, the inability of non-Muslims to exercise their full citizenship rights in an Islamic state, the place of women and hukum hudud.”
On the proposal for an electoral alliance or opposition arrangement against the Barisan Nasional as the Barisan Alternative had not been formed yet,   I said:
“We must respect each other’s political positions: PAS’ goal of an Islamic state and DAP’s stand that an Islamic state is unsuitable and inappropriate for multi-religious Malaysia.

“We can only begin to talk about an electoral arrangement and alliance involving both DAP and PAS if we agree as a starting basis that the battle for the next general election is not about an Islamic state, but how to restore justice, freedom, democracy and
good governance."

The Barisan Alternative was subsequently formed on the clear understanding that while there was  the fundamental disagreement on the issue of Islamic State among the component parties, the coming-together was on commonly-agreed principles based on the restoration of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance as clearly spelt out in the Barisan Alternative election manifesto
“Towards A Just and Democratic Malaysia”.

The Barisan Alternative was plunged into a crisis when PAS leaders  reiterated publicly that the top priority of a PAS-led Federal Government  will be to establish an Islamic State, undermining the  basic rationale and ground-rules for the formation of the Barisan Alternative and running counter to the  Barisan Alternative Manifesto “Towards a Just and Democratic Malaysia” which commits all component parties to respect and uphold the “fundamental principles of the Malaysian Constitution”.

The 13th DAP Congress last weekend has empowered the new DAP Central Executive Committee to resolve the controversy of Islamic State with PAS in the shortest possible time and to take all necessary final decisions without having to refer back to the Party Congress.

I do not propose to anticipate the CEC meeting and decision on the Congress mandate to resolve the Islamic State controversy with PAS in the shortest possible time, although it is clear that it is no more possible to return to the 1999 formula where the BA Common Manifesto omitted any reference to an Islamic State, as the Islamic State question is not a non-issue but will in fact become an even bigger issue in the next general election than in the previous one.

The question is whether there is any way for the Barisan Alternative to send out a clear and convincing message that a vote for the Barisan Alternative is not a vote for an Islamic State nor will it bring it one step closer.

Alternatively, can PAS convince Malaysians that its Islamic State concept is  compatible with democracy, pluralism, human rights, cultural diversity, social tolerance, women’s rights, development and modernity.

It is for this reason that I welcome the earlier PAS’ decision to undertake a public explanation of its Islamic State concept, as a  public debate on the political, legal and constitutional implications of  PAS’ concept of Islamic State for plural Malaysia is one way to address this controversy.

BA leaders should not respond or make “media outbursts” on the Islamic State controversy, but should be able to conduct an open, reasoned and sober debate on the political, legal and constitutional implications of PAS’ concept of Islamic state, as this is an issue which does not just concern DAP and PAS or BA, but all the 22 million Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation.

It is hoped that the DAP booklet “BA & Islamic State” can contribute to such a public debate on the feasibility and practicability of the PAS’ concept of an Islamic State for plural Malaysia.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman