Next year’s National Day will be under a new Prime Minister after 23 Merdeka Day celebrations, but the most important question is whether it would be the first National Day towards an Islamic State in Malaysian history after the next general election
- at the 46th National Day Celebrations themed “Defend Secular Malaysia” at the Tanjong parliamentary constituency
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Sunday): The 46th National Day celebrations will be the last one under Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as Prime Minister after 23 Merdeka Day celebrations from 1981-2003, as the 47th National Day celebrations would be held under a new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is set to take over as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia in less than two months after the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit in Putrajaya from 16th to 18th October, 2003.
The most important question is whether the 47th National Day celebrations would be the first Merdeka Day celebrations towards an Islamic State in Malaysian history after the next general election.
This would be the case if the Barisan Nasional wins a landslide victory in the next polls which would give it the opportunity to claim that the unilateral, arbitrary and unconstitutional “929 Declaration” that Malaysia is an Islamic State made by Mahathir at the Gerakan National Delegates Conference on Sept. 29, 2001 had the endorsement and mandate of the Malaysian people to empower it to make the tectonic and irreversible shift of nation-building policy from a secular state with Islam as official religion to an Islamic state, ala-UMNO though not ala-PAS.
Such a tectonic shift in nation-building will be contrary to what Mahathir had been reminding Malaysians recently, in Miri last month and at the 2003 Gerakan National Delegates Conference the previous week, to remember, protect and enhance the nation-building formula of Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman.
This is because one important pillar of Tunku’s formula of nation-building was the compact reached by the forefathers of the major communities on the founding of the nation, the “social contract”, written into the 1957 Merdeka Constitution and 1963 Malaysia Agreement and reaffirmed by the 1970 Rukunegara that Malaysia is a democratic, multi-racial, secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic state, whether ala-UMNO or ala-PAS.
Twenty years ago, when Tunku chose the important theme of his legacy speech at the mammoth 80th birthday celebrations dinner on 8th February 1983 hosted by the Barisan Nasional and made the public and direct call to all Barisan Nasional leaders “not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state”, all political parties whether in the Barisan Nasional or the Opposition - except for PAS – agreed with Bapa Malaysia.
Twenty years later today, the Barisan Nasional and its component parties have all forgotten Tunku’s injunction “not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State” and DAP stands alone as the only political party in Parliament and the Malaysian political arena to uphold and defend Tunku’s nation-building formula of Malaysia as a secular state with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic state!
This is the reason why the DAP’s 46th National Day celebrations is themed “Defend Secular Malaysia”, for it was in direct response to the call by the Prime Minister to Malaysians to remember, protect and enhance the Tunku’s nation-building formula.
Recently, there had been speculation by some opposition leaders and commentators either that general elections would be held next month or that Mahathir would change his mind about retiring after the OIC summit at the end of October.
I had right from the beginning stated my opinion in June last year after the dramatic scene at the UMNO General Assembly where Mahathir was stopped from proceeding with his resignation announcement that Mahathir would be stepping down in October this year – contrary to the general skepticism at the time.
Many have pointed out that Mahathir does not seem like a man who is preparing to step down from his high-profile activism with his frequent official trips overseas and the many important pronouncements and decisions he is making, from the RM1.1 billion “crooked” half-bridge to replace Malaysia’s half of the Johore-Singapore causeway to the RM24 billion North-South railway double-tracking project.
I do not believe Mahathir will be slowing down at all, and he would probably be making very important decisions and announcements not only in his last week but even on his last day as Prime Minister – would he be announcing for instance, the revival of the RM6 billion 25-km long Malaysia-Indonesia bridge from Malacca to Sumatra which was one of the mega-projects abandoned or frozen after the 1997 Asian financial crisis? – leaving to his successor to pick up the pieces, if any.
Abdullah’s first task on becoming Prime Minister is to establish his legitimacy and political authority inside UMNO, Barisan Nasional and the country, as the question uppermost in everybody’s mind is how long he would last in office.
This is why I never took seriously talk of Mahathir dissolving Parliament and holding general elections before stepping down as Prime Minister, as there would be no more powerful way for Mahathir to undermine the authority and legitimacy of Abdullah as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia than to dissolve Parliament and to personally lead the BN in the next general election before the handover of power.
Every Barisan Nasional Minister, Mentri Besar, Chief Minister, Member of Parliament and State Assembly member would be beholden to Mahathir rather than to Abdullah, who would need another four or five years to stamp his authority and legitimacy by leading the Barisan Nasional to a general election victory – and Abdullah may not have the luxury to wait for another four or five years, as one week can already be a very long time in politics.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman