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Challenge to MCA Ministers to speak up in Cabinet and dissociate themselves from Nazri’s reply on four important public interest  issues – brain drain, Hishammuddin’s keris-wielding at Umno Youth assembly, Inter-Faith Council and worst corruption in nation’s history

Media Conference        
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Parliament, Wednesday) : The reply by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datu Nazri Aziz in the final winding-up of the debate on the Royal Address yesterday is totally unsatisfactory and unacceptable, particularly on four public interest issues of national importance. 

As Nazri’s reply blatantly disregard the paramount  principle in nation-building which had recently been enunciated by the Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Nazrin Shah, MCA Ministers are challenged to speak up in Cabinet to dissociate themselves from Nazri’s reply on four important public interest issues: 

  • Brain drain  with migration overseas of one to two million of the best and brightest of Malaysian sons and daughters for over three decades;
  • Education Minister and UMNO Youth leader, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein’s keris-wielding at the recent Umno Youth assembly in the context of rising chauvinist and extremist demands and pressures;
  • Rejection of the Inter-Faith Council proposal;
  • Worst corruption crisis in nation’s 50-year history.

Nazrin’s keynote address on “Prospects and Challenges of Nation-building” at the Young Malaysians’ Roundtable Discussion on National Unity and Development in Malaysia last week must be compulsory reading for Cabinet Ministers and all Barisan Nasional MPs – and they should be made to pass a test to ensure that they fully understand Nazrin’s speech and grasp the message of the Raja Muda of Perak. 

The most important message of Nazrin’s keynote address is that Malaysia belongs to all Malaysians equally, and all have an equal right and responsibility to take ownership of their country and its future, as represented by this declaration:  “Malaysians of all races, religions, and geographic locations need to believe beyond a shadow of doubt that they have a place under the Malaysian sun.” 

Unfortunately, Nazrin’s message that all Malaysians must have an equal place under the Malaysian sun has not been understood by Nazri, Barisan Nasional Cabinet Ministers and MPs particularly from the MCA. 

This is best illustrated by Nazri’s most unsatisfactory and unacceptable answers on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on the following four issues: 

Brain drain of 1-2 million Malaysians

Nazri’s likening the brain drain of one to two million of the best and brightest Malaysian sons and daughters for over three decades as “ants attracted to sugar” is not on offensive to the Malaysians who had been forced to migrate overseas because of unfair and discriminatory nation-building policies who do not give them and their children an equal place under the Malaysian sun, but proof of the stubborn continuance of the denial syndrome of an urgent reappraisal of 50-years of Barisan Nasional nation-building policies. 

Not much seem to have been changed from the seventies when I raised the issue of brain drain in Parliament in the seventies, when a top government leader dismissed the issue as “Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish” to the present, when the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department could dismiss it as “ants attracted to sugar”. 

In actual fact, the brain drain of one to two million talented, creative and enterprising Malaysians for over three decades since the introduction of the New Economic Policy marks the greatest nation-building failure in the past 50 years, and why Malaysia had trailed behind Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea when we are ahead of them in terms of economic development when we achieved Merdeka in 1957 – and now risks losing to other more vibrant and dynamic nations like Thailand and Vietnam, and one day even Indonesia! 

What is shocking is the total silence of MCA Ministers to speak up in Cabinet and Parliament against unfair and discriminatory nation-building policies which had resulted in the brain drain, with the country facing a new wave of brain drain. 

MCA Ministers in Cabinet in particular to speak up in Parliament to dissociate themselves from Nazri reply on this subject and the other three issues and demand that Nazri retract and render a public apology for refusing to acknowledge that unfair and discriminatory nation-building policies continue to be one main cause of the brain drain. 

2. Hishammuddin’s wielding of Malay keris 

It is sad that Hishammuddin’s deplorable wielding of the Malay keris, in the context of rising extremist and chauvinist demands, is not only defended by Nazri but also by MCA Ministers and MPs. 

Nazri compounded the offence when he repeated Hishammuddin’s earlier statement that he would have no objection if I had brandished the “guan dao”. Have MCA Ministers and MPs explained to Hishammuddin and Nazri that talk about wielding the the “guan dao” is completely inappropriate, and why no MCA Minister or MP or ever wielded the “guan dao”. 

I had yesterday asked in Parliament whether MCA Ministers and MPs could accept Nazri’s justification of Hishammuddin’s use of the Malay keris – which makes him as the most divisive Education Minister in history, undermining the most important goal of the national education policy to foster national unity among the diverse races, languages, cultures and religions in the country. 

3.    Rejection of the Inter-Faith Council proposal 

I find Nazri’s explanation why the Cabinet rejected the Inter-Faith Council proposal and the proposal to amend the Constitution 121(1A) to end the deepening crisis over the rights and sensitivities of non-Muslim Malaysians over freedom of religion the most astounding of all. 

I had raised two important issues. 

Firstly, why the Cabinet cannot accept the proposal for an Inter-Faith Council when in the early decades of Independence, there was a similar body, the Inter-Religious Council, which was initiated by the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman and chaired by a Cabinet Minister. 

Secondly, the increasing insensitivity and intolerance of the religious rights and sensitivies of non-Muslim faiths in the country, as illustrated by the series of controversies from Moorthy to the Subashini cases. 

I had stressed that the amendment of Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution in 1988 was to provide to Muslims the constitutional protection for their rights to be adjudicated in syariah courts without detracting any rights from non-Muslims. 

However in the past few years, particularly after the “929 Declaration” of Tun Dr. Mahathir that Malaysia is an Islamic state, non-Muslim Malaysians have seen their religious and constitutional sensitivities and rights to be adjudicated in civil courts and not syariah courts have come under relentless erosion. 

The time has come for an amendment to the Federal Constitution to make it clear that Article 121(1A) does not derogate from non-Muslim Malaysians any rights which they had enjoyed without challenge before the 1988 Constitution amendment. 

What was Nazri’s reply? He said my arguments were valid but there was no way the Barisan Nasional government could agree because there was no way to convince and persuade Malays who constitute the majority of the electorate to support such a constitutional amendment? 

How can such an argument be accepted – which will sent a dangerous precedent for the erosion of the constitutional guarantees in the Merdeka social contract of Malaysia as a democratic, tolerant, multi-religious and secular nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State, just on the ground that there is no way to get the support of the Malays, the majority of the electorate? 

It is most shocking that MCA Ministers and MPs can accept such a outrageous justification as to why constitutional rights and principles cannot be upheld. 

4.    Worst corruption  crisis in nation’s 50-year history 

I just cannot imagine how Nazri could stand up in Parliament yesterday and boast about the government’s anti-corruption record in the past three years when it coincided with the worst corruption  crisis in the nation’s history. 

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said that the Chinese should learn from China which is fast rising to become a world economic super-power. 

What is even more important is for the Barisan Nasional government to learn from China, such as in the battle against corruption. 

I reminded Nazri and Parliament yesterday that when Zhu Rongji became Chinese premier in 1998, he declared war against corruption and asked for a hundred coffins, 99 for the corrupt in high places and one for himself – underlining the high stakes and personal risks involved in any all-out war against corruption.   

I had asked whether the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would have the political will to emulate Zhu Rongji, by asking for a hundred coffins, 99 for the corrupt and powerful and one for himself? 

It is most unfortunate that Nazri tried to make a joke of the “100 coffins” analogy, saying that he would reserve ten coffins for DAP – which attracted my riposte that DAP leaders are not afraid of consequences for standing up to fight corruption. 

The time has come for Abdullah to summon a special meeting of the Cabinet to exclusively address the worst corruption crisis in the nation’s 50 year history – and to demonstrate the political will to arrest, prosecute and jail top political government leaders, whether national or state, for corruption.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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