Mahathir should abandon plans for UMNO-PAS "Malay Unity" talks and accept instead Barisan Nasional-Barisan Alternative "national unity" talks

Media statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The explanation given by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad for the UMNO-PAS "Malay unity" talks has only deepened nation-wide concern, disquiet and even alarm as to the appropriateness of such talks 43 years after independent nationhood and Malaysian nation-building and eleven years after the 30-year Vision 2020 and the concept of Bangsa Malaysia.

The Star captured the essence of Mahathir's explanation when it headlined its report today: "Malays 'must fight as one'"  to defend  four subjects - Malay special rights, the position of Islam and the national language, and the status of the Malay rulers.

If the 43 year Malaysian nation-building and the Vision 2020 concept of a Bangsa Malaysia means anything, then it should  be "Malaysians 'must fight as one'" to defend the entrenched  provisions in the Constitution, or are the entrenched provisions  only of concern to the Malays but of no relevance  to the non-Malay Malaysians?

Article 153 of the Malaysian Constitution entrenches the provision of special position not just to Malays but also to "natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak".

If Mahathir claims that Article 153 is being threatened, shouldn't the Ibans and Kadazans and all the other natives of Sabah and Sarawak who are also supposed to be beneficiaries of this provision, be invited to the UMNO-PAS talks?

Mahathir made very serious allegations in his media conference yesterday when he said that "certain quarters had been making attempts to challenge the special position of the Malays….With that, they question and challenge the position of the Malays and Islam" (New Straits Times) and  "If any quarter questions Islam as the official religion, it is against the federal constitution and all Malays must defend this, but not all Malays are doing it", which have far-reaching implications for nation-building in multi-racial Malaysia.

Firstly, he is alleging that the three entrenched constitutional provisions of Malay special rights, the national language and the status of the Malay rulers as well as the position of Islam are being challenged by "certain quarters".

It is the height of irresponsibility in a multi-racial society for a person holding the highest office in the land  to make such a grave and sensitive allegation  without identifying who are the "certain quarters" challenging the three entrenched provisions and the position of Islam. Mahathir should name these "certain quarters" and substantiate his allegations or he should stop making wild and  baseless charges which are not conducive to promoting inter-racial harmony or national unity.

Secondly, as any challenge of the three constitutionally entrenched provisions tantamounts to an offence under the Sedition Act, why hasn't the government arrested and prosecuted those challenging these provisions - if there is indeed in  existence "certain quarters" acting seditiously to question  and challenge the entrenched subjects? The government has charged several Barisan Alternative leaders under the Sedition Act but these have nothing whatsoever to do with the entrenched constitutional

Thirdly, where is the proof that the constitutional position of Islam is being questioned and that Malays are not united to defend Islam?

Fourthly, shouldn't the protection of the Constitution, including the entrenched provisions, devolve on all Malaysians and not just on the Malays or any other community - which will have the effect of compartmentalising and institutionalising ethnic divisions and throwing  the country back to the old communal politics of "divide and rule", making a mockery of Malaysian nation-building?

All in all, Mahathir's media conference yesterday is most mischievous and irresponsible and a grave setback to  nation-building and the Bangsa Malaysia concept of Vision 2020 - for its whole intent is to create a sense of Malay insecurity and fear as well as non-Malay alarm  by asserting that "the position of the Malays is being threatened overall" (The Star) and that the Malays are not waking up to this threat!

If Malay leaders from PAS or other political parties had painted such a scary scenario in the heyday of UMNO before the 1999 general elections, they would have been condemned as communalists and anti-national elements seeking to destroy  the nation by undermining  inter-communal harmony and goodwill and be clapped into detention under the Internal Security Act or charged under the Sedition Act.

Would the Attorney-General, Datuk Ainum  Mohd Saaid establish her independence by  initiating  action to consider whether the Prime Minister had committed the offence of sedition in his media conference yesterday?

Mahathir said the Malays should place greater importance on the race and not their parties. Shouldn't he say that the Malays, together with the Chinese, Indians, Kadazans and Ibans, should place greater importance on the nation and not their race or parties?

In any event, Mahathir  has not set the example of placing greater importance on the race and not on the party, as othersie,  why the unfair, undemocratic and vindictive hijacking of the Terengganu oil royalty from the PAS state government by the federal government or the slashing of Harakah's publication permit from twice a week to twice a month after the last general

In his 20th year as Prime Minister, Mahathir should be setting the good example as the Bangsa Malaysia of his Vision 2020 than as a Malay communalist of pre-Merdeka era. As it is, the PAS leaders are showing themselves as better Malaysians than Mahathir, in setting down the conditions that the talks should not be about Malay unity, but national unity; and that they should deal with the issues of the judiciary focussing in particular on the case of Anwar Ibrahim; on democracy and human rights;
Federal-state relations, economic mismanagement with particular reference to corruption and cronyism like the various mega-bailouts and misuse of public funds such as the Employees' Provident Fund, the Pension Funds, Tabung Haji and the various trust funds.

Mahathir  should abandon plans for UMNO-PAS "Malay Unity" talks and accept instead Barisan Nasional-Barisan Alternative "national unity" talks as proposed by the Barisan Alternative in early January to show Malaysians and the world that Malaysia is undergoing the political and nation-building transition where politics would not be so race-dominated but be more issues-centred.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman