MCA leaders competed with their Gerakan counterparts in such political gymnastics and acrobatics with MCA leaders coming out with the oxymoron that Malaysia is a “secular Islamic state” while Gerakan leaders claimed that Malaysia had been an Islamic state for the past 44 years since Independence.
On Saturday night, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad speaking at the dinner of the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCI) said it was all right for the Chinese to think that Malaysia is a secular country. It is significant that neither Mahathir nor UMNO could or would endorse Malaysia as a secular state, although they have no objections if MCA, Gerakan and the Chinese think so - for the simple reason that one layman definition of a secular state is that “it is not an Islamic state”!
What is very surprising is that Mahathir even said that “the Chinese have been living in Malaysia long before independence 44 years ago and while they may not know, they are in fact living in an Islamic state”. (Sun 11.11.2001)
I call on Mahathir and the other Barisan Nasional leaders to stop distorting history and the Constitution as well as misleading Malaysians that they have been living in an Islamic State for the past 44 years since Independence without knowing about it, because this is simply not true.
The first Prime Minister and Bapa Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, who held office for 15 years as head of government, two years as Chief Minister 1955-1957 and 13 years as Prime Minister, 1957-1960 never knew that Malaysia was an Islamic State or he would not have publicly declared so in Parliament in 1956.
The second Prime Minister, Tun Razak, and the third Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn also never knew that Malaysia was an Islamic state.
Even Mahathir, the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, never knew that Malaysia was an Islamic state in his first 19 years and 11 months in office from July 1981 - June 2001, as it was only in the past five months starting in June this year that he began talking about Malaysia being an Islamic state!
Even the highest judicial officers in the land in the past 44 years never knew that Malaysia was an Islamic state. This was why in 1962 the then Lord President Tun Mohamed Suffian Hashim had written, and in 1988, the then Lord President Tun Salleh Abas had delivered judgement of the powerful five-judge Federal Court in Che Omar bin Che Soh vs Public Prosecutor (1988), that Malaysia is a secular and not an Islamic state.
Mahathir said in his speech on Saturday that the government had to declare Malaysia an Islamic state because PAS keeps harping on having Islamic State. Does this mean that if PAS continues to harp on having an Islamic State ala-PAS, UMNO will similarly have to concede in the course of time and yield to the PAS demand?
Mahathir and the Barisan Nasional leaders must respect the 44-year fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of Malaysia as a democratic, secular and multi-religious state recognised by all the first three Prime Ministers and the highest courts in the land and they should stop distorting history and the Constitution by claiming that Malaysia is an Islamic state and had been in this status without anyone knowing about it for the past 44 years!