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The Islamic adult of Malaysia that UMNO envisages is not the same child that was conceived in 1957 whose nature, character and content was secular


Speech at Forum “Malaysia - An Islamic State After 50 Years?”  

by Lim Guan Eng



(Kuala Lumpur, Wednesday): On 29 September 2001, former Prime Minister made an unilateral declaration that Malaysia was an Islamic state. There was neither reference to amending the Federal Constitution to turn Malaysia to an Islamic state nor opposition from the BN non-Muslim component members who meekly echoed the Islamic state mantra. Since then, the chanting of the Islamic state mantra has been repeated, the most recent on 17 July 2007 by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. 

The Islamic adult of Malaysia that UMNO envisages is not the same child that was conceived in 1957 whose nature, character and content was secular in nature. Our first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman fathered the country as a secular child, even though Islam was the religion of the country. Tunku not only reaffirmed this when he was Prime Minister but also subsequently after he left office. His two successors after him, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn who were also lawyers,  made the same declarations.  

The departure from the secular state concept that was the fundamental basis of governance in Malaysia commenced from Tun Dr Mahathir, a medical doctor, and continued to be complied obediently by both Razak and Hussein Onn’s sons. This forum is held not only to dispute Najib’s assertions that Malaysia is an Islamic state but also to protest against the gag order imposed on the media, especially opposition parties, against the Islamic state. The overwhelming response tonight demonstrates that Malaysians will neither be cowed by the gag order nor from therr constitutional duty to preserve, protect and defend our Federal Constitution. 

Our Federal Constitution was founded on concepts of the Westminister model embodying constitutional principles of separation of powers and indirectly separation of church and state. When opening the 12th Malaysian Law Conference on 10th December 2003, the Perak Sultan  Azlan Shah declared:

 “ This Constitution reflected a social compact between the multi-racial peoples of our country. It is fundamental in this regard that the Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land.” 

Apart from constitutional experts and historian the fact that Malaysia is not an Islamic state was affirmed by the judiciary in the epochal 1988 Supreme Court decision in Che Omar Che Soh. The 5-man Supreme Court bench which ruled 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.  

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.                                                                                      

We were born as a secular child. And 50 years later that adult is secular. To pass of a theocratic adult as that child is a travesty of justice. That theocratic adult is not our child. Return our secular child to us. 



* Lim Guan Eng, Secretary-General of DAP

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