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Do not harp on trivial but sensitive matters which cause disunity but emphasise on weightier things that are important for nation building

Press Statement

by Ngeh Koo Ham

(Ipoh, Monday):

-         DAP Perak calls on the Perak State Government to stop requiring State Assemblymen and the public to wear the songkok (Malay cap) at State Government organized functions.


-         DAP Perak calls on the Federal Government to stop the police ruling requiring police women  to wear the tudung (muslim head scarf) during official functions.


The latest invitations by the Perak State Government to the official opening of the Perak Tengah Public Works Department Building on 22/7/2006 and the 46th Warrior Day celebration to be held on 31/7/2006  at the State Building compound require those attending to wear lounge suit with songkok.


A few years ago, the requirement to wear the songkok was imposed for events held at the palace of His Royal Highness the Sultan. DAP Perak had indicated the inappropriateness of imposing such an attire due to the sensitivity of this issue to non Malays and its political implications for the DAP non-Malay Assemblymen. The YAB Menteri Besar has explained that this condition was imposed by the palace.


Since 2002, in an incident where the DAP Assemblymen were barred from attending a function held at the palace because they did not wear the songkok, the DAP Assemblymen and Assemblywoman have refused to attend such functions which require them to wear the songkok.


Wearing or not wearing a songkok is a trivial matter of attire but when imposed on others it brought with it the question of cultural freedom and the issue of racial and cultural domination on others thus making it a very sensitive issue.


The issue of attire should be handled more liberally like the wearing of batik in Malaysia. The people are given a choice. The other races have now accepted batik as part of their apparel and many Chinese Associations have even made batik  their committees’ official attire as batik no longer represent the domination of one culture or race over another.


We would like to apologize to His Royal Highness the Sultan that the DAP State Assemblymen/women could not attend the functions held at the palace though invited because the wearing of the songkok has its political implications on us. As a political party that advocates freedom in cultural and religious practices we are seen as custodian of this freedom and we cannot betray this trust emplaced on us.


I have great admiration for His Royal Highness the Sultan during my campus days in University Malaya, Kuala Lumpur more than 20 years ago when he was still the Lord President of our Federal Court. He is greatly respected for his judgments which are well considered, fair, just and devoid of any racial, religious or cultural bias. I sincerely believe that the requirement by the palace was purely a question of attire and not one of  imposing a cultural practice on another.


The State Government should not unnecessary cause dissatisfaction and alienation among the races by imposing the requirement to wear the songkok but should instead spend its energy and time on weightier thing like promoting economic prosperity, competitiveness, integrity, good governance, freedom and democracy rather than emphasizing on this trivial outward form of conformity. The police should concentrate  on over coming the many weaknesses in the force in maintaining law and order.


The imposition of the requirement to wear the tudung for non Muslim students in International Islamic University, Malaysia then the wearing of tudung for police women, the wearing of songkok at the palace and now at State organized function have caused discontent and alienation of non Malays and non Muslim. We should instead be promoting national unity and integration.


The Perak DAP call on the BN Government not to harp on trivial but sensitive matters that will cause disunity but to emphasise on substantive matters that will bring our nation to greater heights.



* Ngeh Koo Ham, Perak State Assembly Opposition Leader

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