Call for establishment of Cabinet Committee and all-party Parliamentary Committee  to promote inter-faith understanding and dialogue in Malaysia as model for other countries and the world

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Kota Kinabalu,  Monday)DAP has right from the beginning lauded the meeting between the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Pope John Paul II at the Vatican not because it is an  epochal global event but because it is an important and even momentous development for multi-religious Malaysia.  

DAP had in fact proposed that Mahathir should invite Pope  John Paul  II to visit Malaysia to pave the way for the establishment of normal diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the Vatican. 

Parliament when it meets next Monday should give the mandate to the government to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See, especially as it   has formal diplomatic relations with 172 nations, including many Islamic countries like Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Yemen, Turkey, Pakistan and  Kuwait. In Asia, countries which have diplomatic relations with the Vatican include  Japan, South Korea, India,  Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.  

DAP is pleased at the successful meeting between Mahathir and the Pope, and the agreement of the Vatican and Malaysia on the need to bring an end to violence in Palestine and end the oppression of the Palestinians. There was no need for one to convert the other on the Palestinian issue, as Pope John Paul II is one of the most outspoken world leaders for justice for the Palestinians.  

It is both a mistake to regard the meeting  between Mahathir and the Pope either as a major breakthrough or a colossal  failure  to resolve the Palestinian issue, and the level-headed approach by the New Straits Times reporter Nuraina A. Samad is to be commended, describing  the meeting as “timely and significant”, but whether or not Mahathir’s meeting with the Pope would contribute to world peace and solidarity “remains to be seen”.  

If the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Pope is to be really significant for Malaysia, and not just a one-off event,  it must mark the beginning of serious and high-profile commitment by Malaysia to the promotion of inter-religious and inter-civilisational understanding and dialogue as a positive contribution to world peace and solidarity.  

Concrete  follow-up actions should be taken by the Cabinet on Wednesday with the establishment of a Cabinet committee, followed up by the formation of  an all-party Parliamentary Committee next week, to promote inter-faith understanding and dialogue in Malaysia as a model for other countries and the world.  

The Cabinet on Wednesday should take the policy decision to restore official support for inter-religious dialogue and the re-establishment of an inter-religious council,  as  the inter-religious council which was set up by Tengku Abdul Rahman when he was Prime Minister on the attainment of the nation’s independence and was headed by a Cabinet Minister had gone defunct in the past two decades.  

I do not know which Cabinet Minister is best suited to head an Inter-Religious Council, but the Cabinet on Wednesday should take the policy decision to establish such a council and consult with the representatives of all religious faiths to seek a consensus as to whether there is presently a Cabinet Minister who is an ideal candidate for the post, or whether the Prime Minister should make a new appointment to the Cabinet with the responsibility to promote inter-religious dialogue in Malaysia and pioneer inter-faith understanding at the international level.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman