DAP to take initiative for  a national coalition against terrorism by proposing a roundtable conference of all political parties, religious groups NGOs and a full cross-section of civil society

-  opening of the Perak DAP State Convention 
Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Sunday): The Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said at the closing of the two-day conference on terrorism in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that the government will ensure that no Malaysians are alienated and will continue to protect their rights and freedoms regardless of race and religion.

Abdullah rightly pointed out the importance of preventing such alienation which, when it reached a critical mass, is ready to be tapped by would-be terrorists.

I welcome this assurance, but 44 years after independence,  the country has long  passed the time and stage of verbal assurances  without action, as  what is urgently needed are deeds and  results.

If there is no alienation in the country, then the  tragic Kampung Medan tragedy in March this year, which killed six persons and severely injured 78 others, and is the most serious quadruple failures in nation-building, development planning, law enforcement and mass communications in the past three decades, would not have taken place.

But such alienation has not been fully or conclusively addressed, as there is still  no Government  White Paper on the Kampung Medan mayhem, riots and lawlessness; no Sukaham inquiry into the worst human rights violations since its establishment; and even no reference by Members of Parliament in the recent budget debate illustrating the short memory of Parliament although the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad did refer to the “unprecedented acts of violence” in the Kampung Medan incident which  had “jolted” the nation and “marred the unity that we have so painstakingly built up" in his 2002 Budget presentation on October 19, 2001.

I hope Abdullah, in his capacity as Home Minister,  will give personal attention to his unfulfilled promise to present a White Paper on the Kampung Medan tragedy, as a concrete proof of the government’s pro-active action to  remove all causes of alienation in the country which could be tapped by would-be terrorists.

I was invited to be a discussant in two panels of the two-day conference on terrorism, organised by the  Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia, which I accepted without hesitation as I strongly believed that there should be a national consensus against terrorism, especially because of the multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural characteristics of the nation.

My first panel was the “Roundtable on the roots of rage, the causes of terrorism” yesterday morning and the second session on “the Incidents of September 11 and the attack on Afghanistan: How should the US, the Islamic world, and the rest of the world respond” was in the afternoon.

In the morning session, I spoke of the two pre-conditions for a durable international coalition against terrorism - an international consensus on the root causes of global terrorism and a national consensus against terrorism in the respective countries.

I discussed the national component of such an international consensus against terrorism as well as the need to develop such a national consensus in Malaysia, embracing all political parties, whether in government or opposition, religious groups, NGOs and a full cross-section of the civil society.

I expressed my reservation that the ISIS conference could be a step in this direction, not only because it does not seem to represent a full cross-section of the Malaysian society, but also because of the conspicuous omission of the important subject of the impact of the September 11 terrorist attacks on democracy and human rights in Malaysia.

Speaking after me, the Chairman and CEO of ISIS, Tan Sri Dr. Noordin Sopiee, expressed his disapproval and displeasure, suggesting that I had “hijacked” and politicised the conference which was devoted to the issue of international terrorism.

As I pointed out in my rejoinder, the conference was on “terrorism” and not on “international terrorism” and I stressed that I took great offence to Nordin’s remarks.

In view of the fundamental differences as to the scope of the ISIS conference, I excused myself from attending the second panel of the conference in the afternoon.

When I left the Putra World Trade Centre, where the ISIS conference was held, I wondered how a national consensus against terrorism could be achieved in Malaysia when there is no consensus as to what should be discussed in a conference on the root causes of terrorism.

At least the speeches and statements made by both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister at the two-day conference on terrrorism showed that they are not unaware of the importance of the national component of the problem of the root causes of terrorism and the folly of trying to deal with  international terrorism while blind to national terrorism.

Despite my disappointment with the failure of the ISIS conference on terrorism to build a national coalition against terrorism based on a national consensus, particularly on the need to strengthen democracy and human rights as an example to the world to remove the causes of terrorism, this must remain as one of the most challenging tasks facing Malaysia.

DAP is prepared to take the initiative to convene a national roundtable conference for such a purpose, embracing all political parties, whether Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternative or DAP, all religious groups and NGOs and a full cross-section of the civil society (including ISIS).

I will table this proposal at  the next meeting of the DAP Central Executive Committee as Malaysian leaders must be able to speak with authority and legitimacy in the international discourse on terrorism based on a national consensus against terrorism in the country and not operate from  a vacuum.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman