Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Wednesday, 29th October 2008:

Merit not race and religion the basis of PKNS GM Appointment

It is disappointing to note that after 51 years of independence the country is still divided along racial and religious lines. This is evident in the latest ruckus involving the appointment of a Chinese woman as the head of PKNS.

Appointments should be based on meritocracy, past performance and leadership qualities. Appointing or removing a person based on race and religion is discriminatory and would further erode the already-strained race relations in Malaysia.

If the integrity of Low Siew Moi, the candidate appointed by the Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, is questionable the Anti Corruption Agency should be called in to initiate a thorough investigation.

But simply dismissing the credibility of Low based solely on race and religion, as what PAS seems to be doing, contradicts the Islamist party's rallying cry at the March 8 general election which was "PAS for ALL".

The Selangor state PAS leaders must live up to their election manifesto and not behave like the ruling UMNO. The party public policies should be inclusive and reflect the demands of a modern multi-racial and multi-religious developing country.

Furthermore, what would the party leaders tell the Kelab Penyokong PAS who comprise of non Muslim Indians and Chinese - that they are second class citizens and not good enough to hold top posts and lead organisations?

Six staff bodies of the Selangor Development Corporation have likened the General Manager as that to an imam, alluding that only a Muslim could therefore be appointed.

This is nonsensical. The memorandum sent to Khalid also treads of gender discrimination as Muslim women would not be accepted for the top job, for they cannot play the role of an imam.

The staff must recognise that PKNS is not a religious body but tasked to manage the business and investment activities of the state. Those opposing Low's appointment are aware of this. But once again, religion is being used to ensure only a Malay Muslim will be appointed to the job.

It is imperative that PKNS staff conduct their activities in a professional manner.

Instead of pussyfooting along religious and racial quota, we could seek inspiration from the sea change in race relations in the US, made possible through the presidential nomination of Democrat Barak Obama, an African American.

We in the Pakatan Rakyat should strive towards equality for all irrespective of race and religion consistent to our electoral promises.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang