Keng Yaik defends Dr M's Islamic State declaration -  A Response

Press  Conference Statement
Nga Hock Cheh

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): At page 3 of NST December 7, 2003 the Gerakan President Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik was quoted as having said the following:-

"Dr Lim said what Dr Mahathir did was well within the confines of the Federal Constitution.

He said the former Prime Minister had not acted unconstitutionally when he unilaterally announced the country's status.

"Dr Mahathir was the then Prime Minister and head of government, thus he had the power to announce Malaysia as an Islamic country".
It is shocking that the Gerakan President who is a Senior Cabinet Minister could make such a statement.  His said  assertion is devoid of any constitutional or legal basis.  It betrayed his gross ignorance of the Constitution.  Under his  oath of office the Gerakan President as a Cabinet member is required to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution.  Has he discharged the said solemn duty?  

Article 4 of the Federal Constitution clearly stipulates the Constitution as the Supreme law of the Federation.  In this regard to Tun Mohamad Suffian Bin Hashim the former Lord President has rightly described Malaysia as        "a constitutional monarchy";  its head of state  is  the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a Sultan elected for 5 years by the  Conference of Rulers who has to act in accordance with Government's advice. (Introduction to the Constitution of Malaysia chapter 1 by Tun Mohamad Suffian Bin Hashim)

Nobody disputes  that Islam is the official religion of the Federation; this is enshrined in article 3 of the Federal Constitution.  Whilst Islam is the official religion of the country that does not in itself make  or transform Malaysia into an Islamic State.  This was the understanding embodied in the Reid Commission which was reiterated in the Cobbolt Commission when Malaysia was established. In fact  there is no express provision in the Federal Constitution which states that Malaysia is an Islamic State.

On the contrary, Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman on his 80th birthday on 8th February 1983 reminded the Barisan National leaders and Malaysian "not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State".  The third Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn on the occasion of his 61st birthday publicly support Tunku's call reiterating that Malaysia was set up "as secular state with Islam as the official religion" as enshrined in the Constitution.

The said view of our first Prime Minister is also supported by the decision of the Federal Court in Che Omar Bin Che Soh v PP [1988] 2 MLJ 55.   In the words of Salleh Abas LP "By ascribing sovereignty to the ruler i.e to a human, divine source of legal validity is severed and thus the British turned the system into a secular institution.  Thus laws had to receive their  validity through a secular fiat"
Thus it is clear that the DAP position that Malaysia is a secular democratic  state is consistent with the Federal Constitution.  It is also consonant with the vision of the founding fathers  and  the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 and in conformity  with the Judicial interpretations on the subject.  It is the Gerakan President who is confused and for reasons best known to himself has chosen to approve and support  the greatest change in the character of the country into an Islamic State  without the approval  of  the Malaysian Parliament.

No leader is above the Constitution unless he is a dictator.  One would have thought that in the wake of "growing extremist Islamic ideology" the Gerakan President would take a firm stand and mobilize the party as a bulwark against such Islamic onslaught.  Instead the Gerakan President has taken the dastardly route of joining the unilateral declaration of  Malaysia as an Islamic State  to mislead the rakyat into making a false  choice whether to accept the moderate Islamic State  ala UMNO or the more extreme version  ala  Pas when the true choice is actually between a secular democratic Malaysia or an Islamic State of any form whether in Pas or UMNO outfit.    

It is disturbing to note the attempt by the Gerakan President to ascribe to  the former PM non existent powers under  the Constitution to unilaterally announce the country as an Islamic State.  Hopefully it is a mere product post retirement  sycophantic  outpouring and exuberance of the Gerakan  President.

Having erred in his ill advice that "what Dr Mahathir did was well within the confines of the Federal Constitution" (which  obviously was not) the Gerakan  President has the cheek to  chide  DAP party  Supremo Lim Kit Siang.   Gerakan is also a party with  a multi racial outfit but not in substance or principles.  Gerakan was formed as an opposition party but joined the BN bandwagon.  In defending Dr Mahathir's  declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic State  the Gerakan  President has committed the greatest   sellout    of the decade in supporting one leader  to turn a  multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia into an Islamic State overnight at the Gerakan delegates convention on 929.  So who is guilty of practising cunning and opportunistic politics?  

It is tragic that the Gerakan President should continue to lie to the rakyat that after 929 (September 29, 2001) there is no further Islamisation of the country.  How does the Gerakan President explain the following developments:-

(a)        The statement by Jakim after the 929 declaration on the need for continuous Islamisation to overcome  existing weaknesses and defects until the achievement of the final objective of a full Islamic State.      
(b)        The attempt to introduce  Doa Selamat in a primary school in Penang  
(c)        The issuing of summons to unmarried couples of opposite sex holding hands   in  public places in Ipoh
(d)        The prohibition of sale of pork in the open market in Kelang
(e)        The requirement of consent from a Muslim neighbour   if one desire to rear a dog in JB
(f)        The prohibition of sale of alcohol outside the shop premises in Ipoh

Didn't 929 start them all the above  frightening manifestations and prelude to an Islamic State.

The "social contract" as embodied in the Federal Constitution should not be tampered with out of political expediency.  No quarter should mortgage the Merdeka legacy for any short term political mileage for the loss of its sanctity would be irredeemable.  No responsible leader should sow any seed of disunity that may cause the disintegration  of the very fabric of our nation.  For who shall live if Malaysia dies and who shall gain if Malaysia is disintegrated?        


* Nga Hock Cheh, Director Legal Bureau  On Public Interest DAP Perak