Karen Arukesamy and Hemananthani Sivanandam at the Dewan Rakyat
22 October 2012
KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 22, 2012): The country’s first prime minister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, had openly declared that Malaysia is a secular state with Islam as its official religion, the Dewan was told today.
“I can give documents and proof to show that the former prime ministers of the country have declared Malaysia as a secular state and not an Islamic state,” DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timur) said when rebutting Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz’s statement that Malaysia is not a secular state.
Quoting The Star of Feb 9, 1983, Lim said the Tunku had reportedly said: “Don’t make Malaysia an Islamic state” in his speech on his 80th birthday on Feb 8, 1983.
“It was a huge function, which was attended by all the Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders, including the current prime minister (Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak).
“The Star frontpage on Feb 9, 1983 read: ‘The Tunku turns 80 – Don’t make Malaysia an Islamic state: Tunku’.
“On Feb 13, 1983, Tun Hussein Onn, who became the third prime minister, on his birthday, gave his full support to Tunku’s statement as reported in The Star: ‘Hussein says no to Islamic state’,” Lim added.
Citing further from pre-Constitution documents, Lim said all the documents clearly indicate that Malaysia is a secular state with Islam as the official religion, but not an Islamic state.
Nazri had earlier in response to John Fernandez (DAP-Seremban) said that the word “secular” was nowhere stated in any part of the Federal Constitution.
“Malaysia’s position is different from other secular countries like the United States, India and Turkey, which clearly in their constitutions state that the country is a secular state,” Nazri said.
“A secular state does not identify any particular religion as the official religion but people are allowed to practise their own religion.
“Their religion is different from each other and is a personal practice. In our constitution, the word secular is not directly mentioned in any part of the constitution,” Nazri had told the Dewan during the question-and-answer session.
Nazri also cited court cases to say that Malaysia was “never declared a secular country”.
Lim said he was surprised that Nazri as a Minister in the PM’s Department, did not know that previous PMs had declared Malaysia as a secular state.
Lim added that pre-Constitution documents like the Reid Commission and Cobbold Commission have stated and guaranteed that Malaysia is a secular state.
“Tunku was quoted as saying that ‘Malaysia was set up as a secular state, (with) Islam as the official religion and this is enshrined in the constitution’.
“This shows that Malaysia, unlike other secular countries, uniquely has its official religion,” Lim added.