(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.
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
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.
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.