DAP  CEC will consider proposal to take Mahathir to court for his “929 Declaration” and his “617 Announcement”  that Malaysia is an Islamic fundamentalist state

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Wednesday)The announcement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in Parliament on Monday that Malaysia is not an moderate Islamic state but an Islamic fundamentalist state has shocked all Malaysians.  

Before his “929 Declaration” that Malaysia is an Islamic state at the Gerakan national assembly on September 29 last year, MCA and Gerakan leaders had been attacking the DAP for  working “hand-in-glove’ with PAS to establish an Islamic State, proclaiming at the top of their voices that Malaysia is a secular and not an Islamic State. 

But immediately after Mahathir’s “929 Declaration” that Malaysia is an Islamic state, the MCA and Gerakan leaders were the first to give their full and unequivocal support that Malaysia had always been an Islamic state from day one of our nationhood 44 years ago as if the founding fathers and early leaders of MCA like Tun Tan Cheng Lock,  Tun Tan Siew Sin, Tun S.H. Lee, Too Joon Hing or even the early UMNO leaders like Onn Jaffar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and  Tun Hussein Onn  would have agreed to multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia becoming an Islamic State.  

For eight month after September 29 last year,  MCA and Gerakan leaders were trumpeting that Malaysia is a moderate Islamic state – in fact, Gerakan President, Datuk Dr. Lim Keng Yaik  made such  a statement only on Sunday. 

But  after Mahathir’s announcement on Monday  that Malaysia is not a moderate Islamic state but a Islamic fundamentalist state, Keng Yaik and his counterpart, the MCA President, Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik would be the first to endorse Mahathir’s escalation of his stand from his “929 Declaration” that Malaysia is an Islamic State to his “617 announcement” in Parliament on June 17 that Malaysia is not a moderate Islamic State but fundamentalist Islamic State.  

When did the Cabinet make this radical policy shift to declare Malaysia as a fundamentalist Islamic State, going against the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the “social contract” of the major communities and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement that Malaysia is a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State?

It is both sad and most shocking that the Prime Minister and all the Cabinet Ministers are not setting the good example of respecting and upholding  the historical, political, legal and constitutional principles of the Malaysian nation by unilaterally, arbitrarily and unconstitutionally declaring Malaysia as an Islamic fundamentalist state.

The Reid Constitution Commission Report 1957,  which recommended the form of constitution we should have, stated that there was “universal agreement” that “any statement in the Constitution to the effect that Islam should be the State religion… would not  in any way affect the civil rights of non-Muslims”.

It stated:

  “In the memorandum submitted by the Alliance it was stated the religion of Malaya shall be Islam. The observance of this principle shall not impose any disability on non-Muslim nationals professing and practising their own religions and shall not imply that the State is not a secular state.”

Bapa Malaysia and the nation’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman confirmed this and declared in the Legislative Council in 1958:

  “I would like to make it clear that this country is not an Islamic State as it is generally understood; we merely provide that Islam shall be the official religion of the State.”

The position of the constitutional cornerstone that  Malaysia is a secular and not a Islamic state was further reinforced in the negotiations for  the formation of Malaysia in 1963, as Sabahans and Sarawakians were assured that Article 3 of the Constitution  "does not imply that Malaysia is not a secular state." (Cobbold Commission Report).

The fundamental constitutional principle that Malaysia is a secular nation has been upheld by the highest court in  the land in  Che Omar bin Che Soh vs Public Prosecutor (1988). 

Delivering the  judgment of a five-man  Federal Court panel, the then Lord President Tun Salleh Abas held that the Constitution and the legal system are “secular” and held that the meaning of the expression “Islam” or “Islamic religion” in Article 3 “means only such acts as relate to rituals and ceremonies”.

He said  that “There can be no doubt that Islam is not just a mere collection of dogmas and rituals but it is a complete way of life covering all fields of human activities, may they be private or public, legal, political, economic, social, cultural, moral or judicial” but rejected  the contention that  the  terms “Islam” or “Islamic religion” in Article 3 is “an all-embracing concept, as is normally understood, which consists not only the ritualistic aspect but also a comprehensive system of life, including its jurisprudence and moral standard” as  this was not the meaning intended by the framers of the Constitution.

Salleh Abas’ judgment that Malaysia was a secular nation was in keeping with the interpretation of his predecessor, the late Tun Mohamed Suffian Hashim who  in 1962 defined  the scope of Islam in the constitution as being primarily for ceremonial purposes, such as the permission for prayers to be offered in the Islamic way on official public occasions such as the installation of the Yang di Pertuan Agong, his birthday, Merdeka Day and other occasions.

The DAP Central Executive Committee will meet in Petaling Jaya  tonight over Mahathir’s “929 Declaration” and his “617 Announcement” that Malaysia is a fundamentalist Islamic state, and will consider among other things the proposal that Mahathir be taken to court for these two pronouncements.  

I am personally not in favour of a legal move as I believe  that this is more a political than a legal issue at this stage – and what is most important is a nation-wide people’s consciousness campaign for all Malaysians to be fully aware of the far-reaching political, economic, social, legal, nation-building and citizenship implications of such unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional misinterpretations of the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the “social contract” and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement and the need for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation to exercise their democratic and constitutional right to defend and preserve the true meaning and spirit of the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the “social contract” and the 1963 Agreement.  

It has been suggested  that unless  Mahathir withdraws his  “929 Declaration” and his “617  Announcement” that Malaysia is an Islamic fundamentalist state, the PAS state government in Terengganu is entitled to proceed with its Terengganu Syariah Criminal Enactment Bill.  

I do not agree with this proposition, as both UMNO’s Islamic State and  PAS’ Islamic State are contrary to the true meaning and spirit of the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, the “social contract” and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement. 

I find it most shocking that a Pas leader was  quoted in the New Straits Times yesterday as saying that the PAS Terengganu state government will not entertain views and suggestions based on human logic when reviewing the draft of the Syariah Criminal Enactment Bill, as only views and suggestions based on hukum Allah would be considered. 

This would automatically exclude the views of non-Muslims, reflecting a serious implication of an Islamic state where non-Muslims would not be able to enjoy a full and untrammeled role in the nation’s  decision-making process – and explained why the DAP decided to pull out of the Barisan Alternative in September last year.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman