Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Sunday, 10th January 2010:
Najib and Hishammuddin should apologise for their irresponsible, insensitive and maladroit handling of the “Allah” controversy and Cabinet should institute an independent inquiry whether Umno elements were behind the spate religious incitements resulting in the church arson
The announcement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak of a RM500,000 allocation to the Metro Tabernacle Church in Desa Melawati to help it to relocate to new premises in Batu Caves after experiencing the worst case of a series of church arson in the past few days is commendable and a step in the right direction but it cannot undo the grave damage whether to nation building or to Malaysia’s international reputation as the best location for foreign investment, tourism or educational opportunities.
The claim by Najib that his 1Malaysia slogan is not affected by the spate of church arson attacks only demonstrates the seriousness of the denial syndrome of the Najib premiership even before the end of his first year as Prime Minister.
When Najib visited New York end of November to attract American investors and boost trade and investment ties between Malaysia and the United States, he was dogged by Malaysia’s adverse international image, not only by our endemic crime rate but also controversies over moral policing and religious disputes.
Najib found out first-hand that it “takes us months” to clear up adverse international publicity like the case of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, even before the implementation of the order for six strokes of the cane for drinking beer.
If “Malaysia Kartika” is googled, it turns out 263,000 results – which is small fry if the “Allah” controversy is googled, as a google search for “Malaysia Allah” turns up 7.1 million finds, proof of the enormity of the damage the current “Allah” controversy is doing to Malaysia’s international image.
The adverse international image arising from the “Allah” controversy and the attacks on the places of worship would probably haunt all Najib’s investments overseas to attract investors, tourists and students the rest of his premiership!
Najib has called for a halt to “finger pointing” and denied that Umno should be held responsible for the spate of church attacks.
There is no doubt that those in power would have no hesitation or compunction in blaming PAS, PKR or DAP for the religious sacrileges committed against places of worship if they could pin some relationship, however remote, fictitious or chimerical.
In this case, however, no one would believe in any such allegations. On the other hand, there is substance to believe the involvement of Umno hands in the incitement of religious hatred and intolerance over the Kuala Lumpur High Court judgment on the “Allah” controversy, as pointed out by DAP Selangor State Secretary and State Assemblyman for Kampung Tunku, Lau Weng San in his statement on his blog (http://wengsan.blogspot.com/)
When Hishammuddin said last Thursday that the government did not prohibit the people from expressing their views over the use of the word “Allah” by the Catholic weekly magazine Herald and Najib defended Hishammuddin’s stand on plans by several organizations to stage demonstrations to protest against the use of the word “Allah” by other regions, many feared the worst and the worst had come to pass.
How was it that Najib and Hishammuddin could not see what the majority of Malaysians could see?
This was also why I had asked whether Najib and Hishammuddin would be so “benign and tolerant” if demonstrations were to be held in support of the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s Dec. 31 judgment that the Herald may use the term “Allah”?
Najib and Hishammuddin should not only apologise for their irresponsible, insensitive and maladroit handling of the “Allah” controversy, the Cabinet should on Wednesday institute an independent inquiry whether Umno elements were behind the spate of religious incitements resulting in the church arson.
The single greatest challenge of the Cabinet on Wednesday is whether it is prepared to make amends for its past failures in allowing the “Allah” controversy to reach its present combustible point.
The biggest mistake of the Barisan Nasional Cabinet Ministers was to allow the the former Home Minister, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar to disrupt the religious equilibrium by imposing the ban on the use of Allah by Herald.
Why no other Cabinet Minister, whether from UMNO, MCA, Gerakan, MIC, the Sabah and Sarawak parties had spoken up in Cabinet to stop such a ban because of long common usage of the practice particularly in Sabah and Sarawak predating the formation of Malaysia in 1963 we well as world-wide in the Middle East and Indonesia?
This mistake was compounded by the haste with which the government appealed against the KL High Court judgment and secured an instant “stay”, without first allowing a full and balanced discussion and decision by the Cabinet last Wednesday on what is the appropriate response of the Barisan Nasional government, representing not only Umno, but also MCA, Gerakan, MIC and the Sabah and Sarawak component parties of Barisan Nasional.
The Cabinet on Wednesday should make amends for its failure of leadership on the issue and seek to resolve the “Allah” controversy by convening immediately and urgently an all-party/inter-religious roundtable to restore the inter-religious equilibrium, amity and harmony before the 2007 ban by the Home Ministry on the Catholic Herald on the use of “Allah” to steer the country away from irresponsible incitements of religious discord, intolerance and hatred.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor