Pak Lah has the opportunities to cement tolerance and harmony among Malaysians of all religions and cultures. We hope that he seizes these opportunities as tolerance should be one of the bases for the national vision

Dr Tan Seng Giaw

(Kuala Lumpur, Saturday): At 3.00 PM, 31 October, 2003, Pak Lah swore in as Prime Minister. He has inherited an administration that was moulded by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for 22 years (16 July, 1981 to 31 October, 2003). He will carry on with the major policies. It will take him a long time to have his own shape and colour.

Pak Lah has been in politics since the 50s last century, being very active from the 60s. He is versed in Islam. He has experience in foreign affairs, defence and education. But, he would have to put in efforts on economy, especially the endogenous-led growth as outlined in the Eighth Malaysia Plan and further elucidated in the Mid-Term Review presented by Tun Mahathir on 30 October, 2003. He must create an atmosphere for Malaysians to innovate, to create, to design, to produce, to manage and to market their products that fill in the niche of the modern economy. As many factories of the old types close down to move to China, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries, Malaysians will have to replace them with those of the new types.

We hope that the Prime Minister can assemble truly able people to help him formulate policies and monitor implementation. Let him who knows the instrument play upon it, not just jobs for the boys. Meritocracy should be
the most important criterion.

The Governor of Bank Negara Tan Sri Zeti is trying her best. There are some good people in the Economic Planning Unit, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and the Treasury. But, there are signs of feudalism,
mediocrity and bloody-mindedness in various government agencies. These signs form one of the weak links in the globalised and liberalized world.

We would like to see him steer the country towards a balance in materialism and spiritualism. We have our own history, traditions, and circumstances. We have to find the balance that suits Malaysia.

Pak Lad did Islamic studies and his father was also conversant with Islam. He has been able to interact with people of different religions and races. So, this enables him to understand the need for tolerance, understanding and respect between the great religions in Malaysia. We need meaningful dialogues between religions and civilizations. We hope that one of his preoccupations as he assumes the helm, is to ensure that there are always
fruitful inter-religious and inter-cultural discussions.

There is nothing worse than inter-civilisational dialogues that are put up only for shows. They may be steeped in political and other agendas. They may be good for publicity, but not useful in fostering tolerance, understanding
and harmony.


* Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice Chairman & MP for Kepong