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Religious polarization is most serious under Abdullah as Prime Minister as compared to four former PMs

Media Conference (2)         
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Wednesday): “PM: Religious festivals unite all Malaysians” is the New Straits Times headline today for Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s statement yesterday at an Aidiladha ceremony, where he said:

“Malaysia can pride itself in knowing that regardless of what religious celebration it may be, its ethnic groups will come together as one to honour the event.”

This was very true in the early decades of our nationhood, but it has become less and less true as increasing religious polarization in the country is undermining and even threatening national unity.

In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that religious polarization is most serious in the past four years under Abdullah as Prime Minister as compared to the four former Prime Ministers – Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein Onn and Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

It is most unfortunate that in recent years, there have been mounting instances of disrespect and insensitivity of those in power and authority for the rights and sensitivities of non-Muslim Malaysians.

The most serious example was the recent triple insensitivities during this year’s Deepavali – the Festival of Light celebrated by Hindus.

Firstly, there was the insensitive and sacrilegious demolition of the 40-year-old Sri Maha Mariaman Temple in Kampung Rimba Jaya in Shah Alam when Deepavali was just a week away.

This was followed by the disrespect and insensitivity when the UMNO General Assembly was held on Deepavali – imagine the protest and outrage if the MCA or MIC had held their general assemblies during the Hari Raya holidays.

But there was a third strike – when UMNO Deputy Youth Leader and the Prime Minister’s son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin went on a rampage against the Indian community at the UMNO General Assembly, telecast on RTM, blaming the Indian news vendors for taking a national press holiday during Deepavali and blacking Abdullah’s speech as UMNO President the next day.

The outrage by the Indian community at these triple disrespect and insensitivities were a major cause for 30,000 Indians from all over the country gathering in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 25 in support of the Hindraf demonstration – not to create unrest but to send their cry of despair at their marginalization to the government of the day!

Such insensitivity and disrespect could also be seen In Parliament, as in the shocking incident where two UMNO MPs demanded the removal of the cross and demolition of Christian statues in mission schools.

The Prime Minister must take urgent measures to arrest the worsening of inter-religious relations in the country and halt the growing number of incidents of disrespect and insensitivity felt by non-Muslim Malaysians about their rights and religious practices by those in power and authority.

I have just received this SMS on another incident, viz:

“HERALD the weekly paper of the Catholic Church facing problem in renewing permit. Told not to have Bahasa section as condition for approval. All these years they had four sections – languages. BM to reach East Malaysians and youths educated in BM.”

The Prime Minister should immediately address these obstacles to greater national unity, so that Malaysia can revert to the previous position where religious polarization was a serious problem in nation-building so that religious festivals can continue to be an occasion to unite all Malaysians rather than divide them.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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