This is because the greatest challenge facing the country in the coming decade is whether Malaysia defends or jettisons the 44-year fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of Malaysia as a democratic, secular and multi-religious Malaysia and opt for an Islamic state.
The time has come, before it is too late, for Malaysian secularists, Muslim and non-Muslim, to stand up and be united in the great battle to defend the 44-year fundamental constitutional principle of a democratic, secular and multi-religious Malaysia with Islam as the official religion and to make it very clear that Malaysians, both Muslim and non-Muslim, do not want an Islamic state which is not mentioned in Quran and the Sunnah or any other theocratic state of other religions.
In the next general election, whether 2004, 2003 or even next year, Malaysian voters must understand that the crucial decision they have to make when they cast their votes in the ballot boxes is not to choose between an Islamic state ala-UMNO or Islamic state ala-PAS, but to choose to reaffirm a democratic, secular and multi-religious Malaysia with Islam as the official religion as provided by the 1957 Merdeka Constitution for the past 44 years or to jettison this fundamental nation-building cornerstone and principle and endorse Malaysia as an Islamic state, whether ala-UMNO or ala-PAS or ala-some other formula.
The KeAdilan counter-proposal that DAP return to Barisan Alternative is not a serious response to DAPís preparedness to form a new secular Opposition front to defend the constitutional principle of Malaysia as a democratic, secular and multi-religious state with Islam as the official religion.
KeAdilan leaders know that the reasons why DAP pulled out of Barisan Alternative three months ago was because of the failure of the Alternative Front to resolve the Islamic state issue. In fact, DAP leaders felt quite alone in the Barisan Alternative in trying to get PAS and the other Barisan Alternative leaders to address the Islamic state issue immediately after the November 1999 general elections, with little support from the other two political parties
In the circumstances, any suggestion that the DAP return to the Barisan Alternative by ignoring the fundamental cause for the DAPís momentous decision to pull out of the Alternative Front which we helped to form before the 1999 general elections is akin to regarding politics like building sand-castles by the beach of the sea. Politics is not a game but a serious commitment and political leaders must always be seen to be serious in their commitments in the cause of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance in order to maintain public credibility.
When I said in London that the DAP is prepared to form a new secular Opposition Front with KeAdilan, PRM and other political forces, including progressive Islamic forces, to strengthen the hard centre of political and religious moderates in the country to defend the 1957 Merdeka Constitution principle of democratic, secular, multi-religious and progressive Malaysia with Islam as the official religion, I was not suggesting that KeAdilan, for instance, should break off its relationships with PAS and follow the DAPís footsteps and pull out of the Barisan Alternative too.
Although the DAP has pulled out of the Barisan Alternative, the DAP is still prepared to co-operate with PAS on national issues of common concern - just as DAP is prepared on similar terms to co-operate with the Barisan Nasional component parties - in areas such as the restoration of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance in Malaysia.
There are areas where the DAP will co-operate with PAS as on the questions of upholding the rule of law; the independence of the judiciary; the abolition of draconian laws like the Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act and the Official Secrets Act; the war against corruption, cronyism and abuses of power and the war against economic injustices and exploitations. However there are areas where the DAP will draw a clear line of distinction with PAS, viz. the issue of the Islamic state where the DAP will not and cannot compromise the DAPís founding principle as well as the 44-year fundamental principle of the Merdeka Constitution of Malaysia as a democratic, secular and multi-religious Malaysia with Islam as the official religion.
The question is whether KeAdilan is prepared to similarly take a clear stand to oppose any form of an Islamic state for Malaysia and to join forces with DAP so far as upholding and defending a secular Malaysia is concerned.
This has nothing to do with whether DAP returns to Barisan Alternative or not. As far as the DAP is concerned, the question of the DAP returning to the Barisan Alternative does not arise until and unless PAS and Barisan Alternative are prepared to declare, categorically without equivocation, that an Islamic state - whatever oneís personal ideological or religious beliefs - is unsuitable and inappropriate for a plural society like Malaysia and that the 44-year fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of Malaysia as a democratic, secular and multi-religious state with Islam as the official religion remains the common objective of all component parties of the Barisan Alternative.