DAP proposes all-party and all-religious roundtable conference on safeguards for non-Muslim rights following the Prime Minister’s declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic state

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): DAP fully supports non-Muslim religious groups who have asked the government for safeguards to protect their rights following the recent declaration by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad  that Malaysia is  an Islamic state - and the best first step is  by convening an all-party and all-religious roundtable conference on safeguards for non-Muslim rights.

Singapore Straits Times yesterday reported that  this call was made when some 100 people,  including Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Sikh representatives from the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Sikkhism met the MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri  Dr. Ling Liong Sik at a four-hour dialogue attended by other MCA leaders and a number of Muslim leaders on Saturday.

According to the report, Rev Wong Kim Kong, secretary-general of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, said although Dr Mahathir is 'pragmatic and liberal' in his interpretation of an Islamic state, civil servants, emboldened by the declaration, may start tightening the rules.

A  memorandum submitted by the Fellowship on guaranteeing religious freedoms proposed:

If such mechanisms to safeguard the rights of non-Muslims are already in place, like a religious liberty law to protect minority religions, a Parliamentary Commission for good governance and a Religious Harmony Commission, recent disturbing events like the acts of vandalism and arson of Catholic Churches in Segamat and Sungai Petani would have proper fora to deal with them.

DAP deplores the  sacrilegious acts of vandalism and arson in a multi-religious society on 12th October, when St. Philip’s Church in Segamat was pelted with Molotov cocktails while the church of Christ The King in Sungai Petani had a number of its chairs inside the church burnt. Police found traces of kerosene in the Sungai Petani incident.

Malaysians of all religious faiths must not allow external events to affect and undermine the inter-religious peace, goodwill and understanding in the country and all political parties and religious groups must always be mindful that they do not act in any manner detrimental to the  multi-racial and multi-religious unity and solidarity in Malaysia.  This is why the declaration of jihad by PAS over the US air-strikes in Afghanistan, the approval  for its members to fight alongside  the Taliban forces and talk by certain PAS leaders about “holy war” and “holy death” is most unfortunate for  the plural Malaysian nation-building process.

I note that the Gerakan President and Primary Industries Minister, Datuk Ser Dr. Lim Keng Yaik also agrees with the proposal which I had made earlier when he urged the government on Saturday to initiate discussions among non-government organisations and Opposition parties on terrorism.

The DAP proposal for an all-party roundtable conference for a  national consensus binding  all political parties, whether Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternative or DAP on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and US air strikes in Afghanistan serves three objectives:

(i) to present a united Malaysian position at international conferences;
(ii) to  remove the issues from partisan political competition or exploitation; and
(iii) to maintain and safeguard national unity, in particular  multi-racial and multi-religious unity and solidarity.

Although the PAS President, Datuk Fadzil Nor had expressed his disagreement with the DAP proposal, I hope he could reconsider his position in the national interest.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman