(Ipoh, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad ’s
“929 declaration” that Malaysia is an Islamic state has plunged the country
into its second great nation-building crisis since independence in 1957.
In 1994, Mahathir publicly announced
that the Barisan Nasional government had given up
its nation-building policy
of assimilation as it had realised that this was
unsuitable for a plural society like Malaysia and that integration and
not assimilation should be the basis of the nation-building process in the
Although Mahathir did not tell the whole story as he had
not admitted that the Barisan
Nasional was conceding to the consistent opposition of the DAP to the policy of assimilation and advocacy of the policy of
integration, his announcement
marked an important milestone
in Malaysia’s first great
nation-building crisis since Merdeka where
the DAP spearheaded the political campaign
for some three decades to
defend the multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and
multi-religious character of Malaysia, as marked by
stand against the Barisan Nasional’s “One language, one culture, one
religion” policy, the attempts
to implement Section 21(2)
powers of 1961 Education Act to
convert Chinese primary schools into national primary schools, the refusal to
accord recognition to the proper study
and use of mother-tongue languages
as on signboards and banners or free
cultural expressions as banning the
lion dance as “un-Malaysian” and wanting it to be replaced by the “tiger
dance” or the 1984 Malacca State
Government attempt to demolish Bukit China, the most ancient 500-year-old
Malaysian Chinese cemetry hill in the country.
against assimilation is not
completely over, as there are still outstanding issues like the controversies
over the re-opening of the Damansara
Chinese Primary School, the Vision Schools, Suqiu, the “final objective” of
the National Education Policy, and most lately, the UMNO Youth threat at the
recent UMNO General Assembly to do a “second Suqiu” to
the Chinese education movement Dong
Jiao Zong if it persisted in its campaign for the maintenance of Chinese schools
in Malaysia , but an important milestone had been reached with the concession in
principle that the policy of assimilation is not suitable for Malaysia.
But now Malaysians are faced with the second great
nation-building crisis since Merdeka - the unilateral, undemocratic and
unconstitutional attempt to jettison the 1957 Merdeka Constitution “social
contract” of Malaysia as a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and
progressive nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic state.
There are great
differences between these two great nation-building crises
which make me worry as to whether we can be as successful in the second
as in the first great nation-building crisis to protect our fundamental
constitutional rights and interests and those of future generations.
First, the question of time. The first great
nation-building crisis in the battle against assimilation had taken over three
decades of consistent and uncompromising opposition, with many DAP leaders
detained under the Internal Security Act and great
public awareness of the issues at stake, before the Barisan Nasional conceded in principle if not
totally in practice that it is not suitable for plural Malaysia.
great nation-building crisis will
not have the benefit of three decades to conscientise and mobilise the people to
defend the 1957 Merdeka “social contract” to ensure that Malaysia does not
become an Islamic State, as the next general elections which could be held in
less than 12 or six months would be
taken as a test whether there is popular
mandate to give national endorsement to Mahathir’s 929 declaration of Malaysia
as an Islamic State.
Second, the question of public awareness and consciousness.
Unlike the battle against assimilation,
there is little public
awareness or sense of crisis at the tectonic shift and far-reaching
fundamental changes which would be wrought in all fields of national
life, political, economic, legal, educational, social, religious,
citizenship, etc when a national
endorsement is given in the next general elections to Mahathir’s 929
declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic state.
When DAP first launched the “No to 911, No to 929, Yes to
1957” People’s Awareness
Campaign in Penang on May 6, 2002, less than
one per cent of the people knew what was “929” and its import.
We knew that with the media restrictions and inhibitions on freedoms of
speech and assembly, the ban on ceramahs, we are going to face an uphill battle
with the limited time available to us before the next general election.
When we ended the Penang campaign and started the Perak
campaign in June, it was unlikely that we had reached more than three or four
per cent of the people. But thanks
to the MCA MP for Ipoh Timor, Thong Fah Chong, who was at the Pasir Pinji market
on June 6 and had not denied his role in my subsequent police arrest, the “No
to 911, No to 929, Yes to 1957” People’s Awareness Campaign took a quantum
leap – and at this point in time, we may have reached eight to nine per cent
of the people.
However, over 90 per cent of the people have not yet
received the message of the importance of the “No to 911, No to 929, Yes to
1957” campaign, and we have only taken
the first of 99 steps needed to disseminate this information to the Malaysian
people in time before the next general election.
Tonight, we can announce that we are ready to take the
second of the 99 steps of the “No to 911,No to 929, Yes to 1957” People’s
Awareness Campaign. We have published a booklet, “No to 929”, comprising 15
items of the Penang campaign to explain the background and reasons why it is
important for Malaysians to say “No to 911, No to 929, Yes to 1957” and
on Friday, 5th July 2002, we will officially launch the second phase
of the campaign in Perak to ensure that every Malaysian household buy a copy of
the “No to 929” booklet to play a part to defend the 1957 Merdeka
Constitution, the “social contract” and 1963 Malaysia Agreement that
Malaysia is a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation where Islam is the
official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic state. On Saturday, 6th
July 2002, this second phase of the campaign would be launched in Penang.
Can DAP prevent the Barisan Nasional government from implementing the 929 Declaration? I say yes, just as the DAP could succeed in stopping the assimilation nation-building policy of the Barisan Nasional.
Just as the “No to One Language, One Culture, One
Religion” campaign highlighted by the Kepayang by-election in Ipoh in 1983 and
the “Save Bukit China Campaign” 1984 were
the critical battles to win the first nation-building test between
integration and assimilation, the “No to 911, No to 929, Yes to 1957”
campaign is critical to the second nation-building test to preserve the 1957
Merdeka Constitution, “social contract” and 1963 Malaysia Agreement
that Islam is the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic State.
All DAP needs to stop the BN government from implementing
the “929 Declaration” is to win 30 to 35 Parliamentary seats in the next
general election to demonstrate a
strong and clear “No to 929”
and “Yes to 1957” by Malaysians.
Mahathir has now announced that Malaysia is not a moderate
Islamic state but a fundamentalist Islamic state. I disagree with both, as before we decide whether
Malaysia is a moderate or fundamentalist
Islamic state, the first question that must be disposed of is whether
Malaysia is an Islamic State.
In this connection, I call on all Barisan Nasional leaders, whether UMNO, MCA, Gerakan, MIC, SUPP or PBS to remember and abide by the public calls of the first and third Malaysian Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn in 1983 not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State – which had the open support of the then Deputy Prime Minister, Musa Hitam.