(Malacca, Sunday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad ’s
“929 declaration” that Malaysia is an Islamic state has plunged the country
into its second great nation-building crisis since independence in 1957.
In 1994, Mahathir publicly announced
that the Barisan Nasional government had given up
its nation-building policy
of assimilation as it had realised that this was
unsuitable for a plural society like Malaysia and that integration and
not assimilation should be the basis of the nation-building process in the
Although Mahathir did not tell the whole story as he had
not admitted that the Barisan
Nasional was conceding to the consistent opposition of the DAP to the policy of assimilation and advocacy of the policy of
integration, his announcement
marked an important milestone
in Malaysia’s first great
nation-building crisis since Merdeka where
the DAP spearheaded the political campaign
for some three decades to
defend the multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and
multi-religious character of Malaysia, as marked by
stand against the Barisan Nasional’s “One language, one culture, one
religion” policy, the attempts
to implement Section 21(2)
powers of 1961 Education Act to
convert Chinese primary schools into national primary schools, the refusal to
accord recognition to the proper study
and use of mother-tongue languages
as on signboards and banners or free
cultural expressions as banning the
lion dance as “un-Malaysian” and wanting it to be replaced by the “tiger
dance” or the 1984 Malacca State
Government attempt to demolish Bukit China, the most ancient 500-year-old
Malaysian Chinese cemetry hill in the country.
against assimilation is not
completely over, as there are still outstanding issues like the controversies
over the re-opening of the Damansara
Chinese Primary School, the Vision Schools, Suqiu and the “final objective”
of the National Education Policy, but an important milestone had been reached
with the concession in principle that the policy of assimilation is not suitable
But now Malaysians are faced with the second great
nation-building crisis since Merdeka - the unilateral, undemocratic and
unconstitutional attempt to jettison the 1957 Merdeka Constitution “social
contract” of Malaysia as a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and
progressive nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic state.
There are great
differences between these two great nation-building crises
which make me worry as to whether we can be as successful in the second
as in the first great nation-building crisis to protect our fundamental
constitutional rights and interests and those of future generations.
First, the question of time. The first great
nation-building crisis in the battle against assimilation had taken over three
decades of consistent and uncompromising opposition, with many DAP leaders
detained under the Internal Security Act and great
public awareness of the issues at stake, before the Barisan Nasional conceded in principle if not
totally in practice that it is not suitable for plural Malaysia.
great nation-building crisis will
not have the benefit of three decades to conscientise and mobilise the people to
defend the 1957 Merdeka “social contract” to ensure that Malaysia does not
become an Islamic State, as the next general elections which could be held in
less than 12 months would be taken as a test whether there is popular mandate to give national endorsement to Mahathir’s
929 declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic State.
Second, the question of public awareness and consciousness.
Unlike the battle against assimilation,
there is little public
awareness or sense of crisis at the tectonic shift and far-reaching
fundamental changes which would be wrought in all fields of national
life, political, economic, legal, educational, social, religious,
citizenship, etc when a national
endorsement is given in the next general elections to Mahathir’s 929
declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state.
But can DAP preventing the Barisan Nasional government from implementing the 929 Declaration? I say yes, just as the DAP could succeed in stopping the assimilation nation-building policy of the Barisan Nasional.
Just as DAP’s Save Bukit China Campaign 1984 was the
critical battle to win the first nation-building test between integration and
assimilation, the “No to 911, No to 929, Yes to 1957” campaign is critical
to the second nation-building test to preserve the 1957 Merdeka Constitution and
“social contract” that Islam is the official religion but Malaysia is not an
All DAP needs to stop the BN government from implementing the “929 Declaration” is to win 30 to 35 Parliamentary seats in the next general election to demonstrate a strong and clear “No to 929” and “Yes to 1957” by Malaysians.