The September 11 terror and Islamic militancy ala-Taliban issues  will be fused into a powerful Barisan Nasional weapon  in the next general election to stampede the voters into the  false choice to endorse  Mahathir’s declaration that Malaysia is already an Islamic state

61st birthday dinner organised by Penang DAP
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Monday)The next 12 to 18 months will see critical tests for Malaysian nation-building, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

In less than two months, the first two-year tenure  of the Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) will expire and it will be time for Malaysians  to pass judgment on the performance of the first two years of SUHAKAM.  Equally important, will be the government’s stance on human rights, which will be reflected by its decisions on its  second set of appointments of the SUHAKAM commissioners - whether the SUHAKAM Chairman Tan Sri Musa Hitam and the more committed SUHAKAM commissioners will be retained or dropped and whether the government is prepared to consult the NGOs and the civil society to nominate more commissioners who have undoubted commitment to its statutory objective and parliamentary mandate to protect and promote human rights in Malaysia.

Malaysia is poised  at a most crucial period for democracy and human rights, as there is the great danger in Malaysia and elsewhere on the globe that the widespread fear of terrorism after the September 11 terrorist attacks would be convenient handmaiden for authoritarian and repressive regimes  to suppress human rights and democratic freedoms, as was done in the past when communism was the convenient scapegoat  by such regimes to stifle democracy and human rights.

I welcome the SUHAKAM statement today deploring the blanket ban imposed by the police on ceramahs as unconstitutional and a violation of the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Malaysian Constitution. 

The government and the police should respect the stand of SUHAKAM and immediately lift the blanket ban on ceramahs, as all political parties have a vested interest to ensure that their ceramahs are peaceful and orderly and there had never been a case of a political ceramah turning violent or becoming unruly without provocation or unfair and undemocratic interference with the fundamental rights to freedoms of speech and assembly by the authorities.

DAP reiterates our call for a roundtable conference involving all political parties and the police to reach a national consensus against terrorism and extremism of all forms and to reach an accord on the ground-rules for the operation of political parties to ensure that the campaign against terrorism and extremism is not used as an excuse to clampdown on democratic freedoms and human rights in Malaysia.

The next great test is to the rule of law, as by the end of this year, Tan Sri Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah will be retiring as the  Chief Justice of the Federal Court, unless he is given a six-month extension which had been given to his two former predecessors.

Dzaiddin had come into the highest judicial office in the land with the pledge to restore national and international confidence in the independence of the judiciary.  Although Dzaiddin must be commended for stopping the rot which had made the judiciary the international laughing stock and a major cause in undermining investor confidence, the sad fact is that fundamental institutional reforms in the judiciary had not been put in place which could immunize the judiciary from executive assaults and excesses in the near future.

This raises the question as to what is the future of the Malaysian judiciary after Dzaiddin, whether there could be a relapse to the “dark age” of the justice system, which crippled a just rule of law and a truly independent judiciary  for so many years in the recent past.

The third great test for the nation will be the 11th general elections in the country since Merdeka in 1957, which should be held within 18 months, and will  be a “Battle Royale” for the very soul of Malaysia as it  will set the mould of Malaysian nation-building for decades and even generations to come.

In the next general elections, the Barisan Nasional will fuse the two issues of the September 11 terror and Islamic militancy ala-Taliban into a powerful weapon  to stampede the voters into the  false choice to endorse Datuk Seri Dr.  Mahathir Mohamad’s declaration that Malaysia is already an Islamic state.

The Barisan Nasional will deploy all its resources to delude the Malaysian voters into believing that the only way to ensure that there is no Sept. 11 terrrorism or extremist, fanatical and Taliban-type Islamic state in Malaysia is to give a resounding landslide victory to the Barisan Nasional by endorsing Mahathir’s declaration that Malaysia is already an Islamic state.

The Barisan Nasional will not admit that this is a false choice, which would involve the abandonment of the 44-year Merdeka Social Contract reached by our forefathers from the three communities in 1957, and reaffirmed by the peoples of Sabah and Sarawak in 1963 when forming Malaysia, and enshrined in the fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone that Malaysia be a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive nation and that it is not an Islamic state.

The choice Malaysians must decide in the next general elections is not between Mahathir’s Islamic state or a Taliban-type Islamic state, but between the preservation of the 44-year Merdeka Social Contract which had been defended by the first three Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn, that Malaysia is a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive Malaysia or jettisoning it for Malaysia to start on the new road of an Islamic State.

The DAP is faced with a herculean task to explain the real choice  to all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political beliefs, as we are in a race against time to send out the message that at stake is the 44-year Social Contract and the fundamental  constitutional principle of Malaysia as a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive nation.

We must also ensure that all Malaysians, whether Muslims or non-Muslims, understand that the defence of the 44-year Social Contract and Merdeka Constitution and opposition to the establishment of an Islamic State in Malaysia is not a campaign against Islam.

We must conduct such a nation-wide campaign to mobilise national support for the 44-year Social Contract and the Merdeka Constitution in a serious and responsible manner,  unlike the irresponsible attacks of the MCA and Gerakan in their defamatory campaign in the last general election, claiming that a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS, a vote for an Islamic State, where there is no pork, no alcohol, no temples or churches, no Chinese schools, beautiful women would have no work, etc.

Finally, while spearheading the campaign to defend the 44-year Social Contract and the secular Merdeka Constitution, DAP must continue to be in the forefront in the battle for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance so that no one can  smear us as having suddenly become an one-issue party.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman