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Berita Harian’s front-page story of Hishamuddin’s stern warning to MCA not to question Malaysia’s status as an Islamic State displays an arrogant double-standards of the ban of such news in the mainstream media unless issued by both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister


Press Conference

by Lim Guan Eng



(Melaka, Saturday): Berita Harian’s front-page story of UMNO Youth chief Hishamuddin Tun Hussein Onn’s stern warning to MCA not to question Malaysia’s status as an Islamic state displays an arrogant double-standards of the ban of such news in the mainstream media unless issued by both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. 

On 21 July 2007, the Internal Security Ministry has given a directive to all mainstream media not to publish any news on the issue of whether  is an Islamic or secular state for fear of causing tension as Islam is a sensitive issue. Internal Security Ministry’s Publications Control and Al-Quran Texts Unit senior officer Che Din Yusof told Malaysiakini that newpapers can still publish statements from Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his deputy Najib Abdul Razak on the country being an Islamic state.  

Najib had said Malaysia is an Islamic state and not a secular one as the government has always been driven by the fundamentals of Islam. Che Din pointed out that while the two top leaders of the country can make such statements, any reactions from political parties and the public will not be allowed to be published, especially the negative reactions.  

Such a media ban must be condemned for not only being undemocratic and unconstitutional in stifling the voices of those who wish to preserve our 1957 social contract that Malaysia is a secular state, but also violates the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and press freedom. Regrettably no BN leader whether from MCA, MIC or Gerakan that talks of fundamental liberties have dared to oppose such a ban. 

Why should only the Prime Minister and his deputy be allowed to speak? Malaysia has 27 million people. Malaysian is no democracy when there only two persons out of 27 million people that have the right of expression. Even it we oppose the ban, what action is the Internal Security Ministry going to take against Berita Harian for violating the media ban when other newspapers have complied. 

Or is there going to double-standards by exempting Berita Harian from action just because it is owned by UMNO? This is what happened to certain newspapers and news stations owned  by UMNO that escaped any action over the publication of a cartoon of Prophet Mohamad whereas those not owned by UMNO were either closed down or suspended. 

In this case, Berita Harian had published UMNO Youth’s insistence thqat Malaysia is an Islamic state which must be accepted by all. When opening the Ranau UMNO Division meeting in Sabah, Hishamuddin said, 

“Saya beri amaran kepada pemimpin MCA supaya berhenti membuat kenyataan sedemikian. Ingin saya tegaskan, saya bukan pemimpin naif yang akan membenarkan perkara ini berterusan. Amaran saya ialah berhenti membuat kenyataan.”

Hishamuddin’s warning shows that MCA President Ong Ka Ting lied when he said he brought up the issue of Malaysia being a secular and not an Islamic state in a Cabinet meeting on 20 July and was agreed to by Najib. If Najib had agreed why was this stern warning issued by Hishamuddin?   

That Malaysia is not an Islamic state was affirmed by the judiciary in the epochal 1988 Supreme Court decision in the case of the Public Prosecutor versus Che Omar. when it declared that the Malaysian Constitution is secular and Islam as the religion of the Federation does not make Malaysia an Islamic state. In that judgment, then Lord President Tun Salleh Abas ruled that the syariah law was not the basic law of the land and that the constitution was the supreme law. Unless there is a constitutional amendment Malaysia is and never was an Islamic state. 

By making an unilateral announcement that Malaysia is an Islamic state that has always been governed by Islamic fundamentals, Najib is making a pre-emptive strike at “hijacking” our Federal Constitution away from our legal and constitutional moorings that has been attested by constitutional history and reaffirmed by the courts.  

DAP is curious as to the reason why MCA’s disagreement with Najib that Malaysia is an Islamic state was not publicised in the Malay press. Neither did MCA Ministers appear to have brought this matter up in Cabinet as there was no press announcement. This is a favourite “double-faced” game by MCA leaders of tailoring its message to different audiences.  

History records that MCA had not objected but supported former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s announcement on 29.9.2001 that Malaysia is an Islamic state. The time has come for MCA to redeem this grave historical mistake and show true political courage by insisting that the Cabinet respects the 1957 social contract by rejecting Najib Tun Razak’s pronouncement that Malaysia is an Islamic state. 

DAP stresses our opposition to any theocratic state whether Buddhist, Christian Hindu or Islamic. DAP hopes that other BN component party members such as Gerakan, MIC, PBS and SUPP will stand up and be counted in opposing Najib and UMNO’s “hijacking” of our Federal Constitution and unconstitutional attempt at turning Malaysia into an Islamic state.



* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP

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