by Eileen Ng
The Malaysian Insider
February 11, 2014
Malaysians must band together for a “peaceful resistance” against ongoing racial and religious strife facing the country, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan (pic) said last night when recalling founding prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman’s legacy for Malaysia.
The former co-chair of electoral reform group Bersih 2.0 said those who want to fight racism and bigotry must unite and stand together with the oppressed. Malaysia’s political mercury spiked in the past few months with a church attacked with a firebomb over the Allah issue and threats against an opposition lawmaker over a satirical video clip.
“How do we stop groups who are bent on dividing us? When they speak the language of racism and bigotry, we must respond with the language of unity and togetherness.
“When they speak the language of ignorance, we must speak the language of knowledge. When they attack our brothers and sisters, we must defend them.
“We must respond from a position of knowledge if we see such ignorance. When they create fear, we must respond with courage, when they divide, we must unite.
“We must make this message loud and clear – the more you divide us, the more we will unite,” Ambiga said to applause from the audience at the Tunku Abdul Rahman legacy forum in Kajang.
The forum was organised to celebrate Tunku Abdul Rahman’s 111th birthday, which fell on February 8. He died in 1990.
The former Bar Council president and senior lawyer noted that extremist groups are trying to evoke a response with their actions but reminded Malaysians that they cannot afford to descend to the former’s level.
Instead, the people should respond positively by standing with the oppressed and to never give up hope.
“They better get the message we are not going anywhere. This is our country, my parents were here and they did their part for the country. We have to hand over to our children a country they can be proud of. We can’t allow anyone to tell us to get out,” she added.
In paying tribute to Royal Malaysian Air Force Major Zaidi Ahmad who is facing seven charges for filing a complaint on the indelible ink used in the 13th general election last year, Ambiga called on everyone to stand by him as he is a “courageous man” and a “Malaysian hero”.
“This man is being punished for speaking the truth and we must stand by him. We must at every opportunity express our support for him for daring to speak the truth,” she said.
DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang, who was one of the forum’s speakers, said it was time for moderates in the country to stand and draw the line against extremists who threaten the return of the May 13, 1969, racial riots.
In labelling such extremists as “traitors”, the veteran politician said no right thinking person who loved the country would want the return of the racial riots.
“We need Malaysians to come forward to take a stand and say, ‘you are traitors, we have no time for you’,” he said.
He stated that the majority of those in the country only wanted peace, harmony and progress instead of racial chaos or religious conflagration.
In a protest last week, an alliance of Muslim groups named “Council of Islamic NGOs” slaughtered two chickens and offered a RM1,200 reward to anyone who dared to slap DAP’s Seputeh MP Teresa Kok as a sign of anger towards opposition leaders for allegedly insulting the country’s Malay leadership and Islam.
They also smeared the blood of the slaughtered chickens on a banner featuring pictures of Kok, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, Kit Siang and Machang Bubuk PKR assemblyman Lee Khai Loon.
The group’s focus was Kok and her Chinese New Year greeting video, “Onederful Malaysia CNY 2014”.
Group leader Zulkifli Sharif had said that the slaughtering of chickens and smearing of blood ritual harks back to the “bloody” May 13, 1969, racial riots.
“It is symbolic of the bloody incident. This means we are sending a serious warning to Teresa Kok not to provoke and create something that threatens the peace and feelings of the Malays,” he had said.
A worried Kok and six others had lodged police reports over the threat and she had urged the police to take action against the group because it involved her safety. However, the threat was dismissed by Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
This latest episode was among a series of racially charged incidents in Malaysia.
Last month, Penang Umno members warned of another racial riot when protesting against PKR assemblyman Lee for organising a kangkung flash mob which featured an effigy of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak with its mouth stuffed with the vegetable.
Tension reached a new high when two Molotov cocktails were thrown into the compound of the Church of the Assumption in Lebuh Farquhar, Penang, in late January.
One of the bombs exploded while the other fell on the grass and failed to explode in the incident which occurred early in the morning.
Initial police investigation revealed two men on a motorcycle committed the crime.
The day before, a number of banners, which read “Allah is Great, Jesus is the son of Allah”, were hung outside five churches in Penang – the Victory Lutheran Church, St John Britto Catholic Church, the Church of the Immaculate Conception and the Church of the Assumption on the island and the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Butterworth.
The churches have denied they put up the banners and have lodged police reports over the matter.
Ties between Muslims and Christians have been tense since 2009, after the Home Ministry banned the Catholic weekly Herald from using the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia section.
In 2010, several churches nationwide and a Catholic school were attacked at the height of the “Allah” controversy, following the High Court’s ruling which overturned the ministry’s ban on the use of the word “Allah” by the Herald.
The Metro Tabernacle church in Kuala Lumpur suffered the worst damage after arsonists torched its premises in Desa Melawati, Kuala Lumpur, leaving its ground floor destroyed.
The church subsequently moved to a new building in Batu Caves.
In August 2010, the Sessions Court found siblings Raja Muhammad Faizal Raja Ibrahim and Raja Muhammad Idzham Raja Ibrahim guilty of the arson attack. – February 11, 2014.