DAP asking for urgent meeting with Foreigh Minister Hamid Albar urging Malaysian government to join Iran, India, Pakistan, Russia, Germany, EU  and other countries  in the international condemnation of  Taliban destruction of ancient Buddhist statues   and  to demand halt of Taliban  vandalism of priceless heritage of humanity

Media Statement

by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The DAP is asking for an urgent meeting with Foreign Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar urging the  Malaysian Government to   join Iran, India, Pakistan, Russia,  Germany, the European Union  and other countries in the international condemnation of  Taliban destruction of ancient Buddhist statues and to demand an immediate halt to the Taliban vandalism of  priceless heritage of humanity.

Ignoring the  international outcry at the order by Taleban supreme commander Mullah Mohammed Omar on Monday  to destroy the statues, which include giant Buddhas of religious, historic and artistic significance, members of Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement yesterday  used tanks and rocket launchers to start their   campaign to destroy all statues  to rid Afghanistan of the images which they consider blasphemous.

Iranís strong  condemnation  of the destruction of the ancient Buddhist statues by the Taliban  militia in Afghanistan and its call on the United Nations to take serious action against the ruling Taliban regime should be supported by all countries especially in this year named by the United Nations as the Year of Inter-Civilisational Dialogue.

The international community, from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Afghanistan's closest ally, Pakistan, have called for the preservation of the ancient works of art,  which include two massive ancient Buddhas carved into a cliff face -  one of them  at 175 feet   is the world's tallest standing Buddha - known as the  Bamiyan Buddhas.

These ancient Buddhist statues date back from  nearly 2,000 years ago when Afghanistan   was a center of Buddhist learning and pilgrimage. They were largely   untouched for more than a millennium after the arrival of Islam,  surviving even the onslaughts of Genghis Khan in the 13th century and Tamerlane in the 14th century.

Pakistan said:''We hope the Afghan government will show the spirit of tolerance enjoined upon by Islam as well as respect for international sentiment in this regard.''

''These intentions cannot be judged otherwise than as an assault on the cultural and historical achievements of not only the Afghan people, but also of world civilization,'' the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Other countries which have joined in expressing international outrage or concern at the Taliban destruction are India,  Germany, the European Union, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

It is most disappointing that the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday did not take a strong stand against the  wilful destruction of the priceless heritage of mankind by the Talibans  which could neither further the cause of Afghanistan nor Islam.

Malaysia should not abdicate from our international responsibility to speak out against the wilful destruction of the ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan and as a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation, we have  a special responsibility to participate actively in an international campaign to save the   Bamiyan Buddhas and other cultural arterfacts  - including raising this issue at the United Nations and other international  forums.

(2/3/2001)


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman