Call on people of Penang to lead Malaysians to say “No to 911” and “No to 929” to save the country from terrorism and extremism  of any form as well as to  preserve the 1957 Merdeka Constitution “social contract” that Islam is the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic state

Media Conference Statement 
- launching of the People Awareness Campaign “No to 911” & “No to 929”
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Monday)Two important events, one outside and the other inside the country,  took place in September last year with far-reaching influence on Malaysian politics, nation-building and the citizenship rights of generations of Malaysians. 

The first  was the September  (or 911)  terrorist attacks in the United States which transformed  the global  political landscape and Malaysian political scenario, making terrorism and extremism of any form the No. 1 fear of the peoples of the world as they threaten the security and stability of all societies and nations. 

The second was the September 29 (or 929) announcement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the Gerakan national 30th delegates’ conference that Malaysia was an Islamic state. This 929 declaration constituted a tectonic shift in Malaysian nation-building, jettisoning the  fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone in the 44-year 1957 Merdeka  “social contract” agreed by our forefathers from the major communities  that Malaysia is a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive nation with Islam as the official religion but is not an Islamic state -   buttressed by the constitutional, political and legal history of over  four decades, starting from the Reid Constitution Commission Report 1957, the Government White Paper on the Constitutional Proposals, the Federal Constitution 1957, the Cobbold Commission Report 1963, and  the highest political and judicial pronouncements of the land such as by Bapa Malaysia and the  first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman and  the Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas in  the landmark case Che Omar bin Che Soh vs Public Prosecutor (1988) that Malaysia is a secular and not an Islamic state. 

The DAP has launched a people’s awareness campaign to call on the  people of Penang to lead Malaysians to say “No to 911” and “No to 929” to save the country from terrorism and extremism  of any form as well as to  preserve the 1957 Merdeka Constitution “social contract” that Islam is the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic state. 

Mahathir’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 country. 

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  our   uncompromising 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. 

The  battle 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 for Malaysia.. 

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. 

The  second 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 hardly any 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. 

This was illustrated in Penang in the past week, when Penang DAP aroused great public  curiosity in its “No to 929” poster campaign - with  most people  not knowing what  is “929” or why “929” is very important to them and future generations as citizens of Malaysia and stakeholders of the destiny of the nation. 

The people of Penang and Malaysia must  learn a lesson from the French presidential elections.  The French people had a fright of their lives when the spectres of far-right fascism and  neo-Nazism reared  their  ugly heads in French politics,  after  the far-right leader  Jean-Marie Le Pen ousted Socialist Party French premier Lionel Jospin in the first round of French presidential elections  to become the presidential front-runner with incumbent conservative President Jacques Chirac, with Le Pen securing 16% and Chirac 19% of the votes. 

However, the French voters had an opportunity yesterday to redeem the blunders of their political apathy and to avert France from a disastrous future  in the second round of presidential  voting by giving Chirac a crushing victory of 82.1% against Len Pen’s 17.9%. 

Malaysian voters, however, will not have such a second chance to undo their mistakes if in the next general elections in less than 12 months, they unconsciously and unintentionally give a national mandate to endorse Mahathir’s 929 declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state. 

I am astounded by the perverted logic of the Penang Chief Minister and Gerakan vice president Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon who yesterday blamed the DAP for Gerakan’s supporting Mahathir’s “929” declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state.

 Koh said Gerakan and MCA should not be accused of supporting Malaysia as an Islamic state as it is the DAP which should be held responsible for paving the way for PAS to gain momentum in the Malaysian political scene during the last general election. 

Instead of such convoluted discourse, Koh and the Gerakan leaders should come out forthrightly and declare that they should not be faulted for supporting the 929 declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic State, (although a week earlier, they were denouncing Islamic State without qualification in the Sarawak state general election)  as the DAP had forced them into it - and let there be a public debate as to whether such self-serving political arguments can withstand public scrutiny.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman