After more than a week, both the MCA and Gerakan Presidents have finally come out with a position today on the parliamentary statement by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom that Malaysia is not a secular state, but both have tried to evade the issue by dismissing it as merely Jamil’s “personal view”.
The excuse that a Minister is giving his “personal opinion” might be used if the Minister is speaking outside Parliament, but it is completely unacceptable when a Minister makes a speech or a statement in Parliament.
There is no such thing as a “personal view” when a Minister speaks in Parliament, whether in speeches or in replies to parliamentary questions, as whatever the Minister speaks in Parliament is in an official capacity on behalf of the Barisan Nasional Cabinet which binds all Ministers under the doctrine of collective Ministerial responsibility.
I am really surprised that the MCA President, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, as a former Minister who is hoping to get back to the Cabinet in the shortest possible time, is not aware of this fundamental ministerial principle – or he is merely putting up a pretence so as to evade the issue of a Minister making an official statement in Parliament representing the Barisan Nasional Cabinet and leadership completely deviating from the decades-old assurances and commitments in the Malaysian Constitution and the founding fathers of the nation, including the first three Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein, the other Alliance founding leaders like Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Tun Tan Siew Sin, Tun VT Sambantan as well as the founding Sarawak and Sabah leaders who were signatories to the 1963 Malaysia Agreement on Malaysia as a secular state with Islam as the official religion of the Federation.
It is just not good enough for the MCA President to dismiss Jamil Khir’s parliamentary statement that Malaysia is not a secular state as “merely his personal view”, arguing that Malaysia’s position as a secular state was clearly defined in the Federal Constitution “drafted to safeguard the rights of not only one race and religion, but of all”.
His further statement that “No one person in this country can have their own interpretation of the Federal Constitution” is an unbelieveably weak and a most craven one, totally ignoring the brutal fact that this was a statement made in Parliament by a Minister which, if unchallenged and unretracted, will represent the official position of the Barisan Nasional Federal Government or all serving Ministers and Deputy Ministers, those serving as well those joining the Cabinet, whether they agree with it in their personal capacity or otherwise.
The position taken by the Gerakan President, Datuk Mah Siew Keong is not very different from that of his MCA counterpart.
While it is good to hear the Gerakan leadership reiterating Gerakan’s stand that Malaysia is a “fully functional secular-based constitutional monarchy with Islam as the religion of the federation”, it has completely ignored “the elephant in the room” – Jamil Khir’s parliamentary statement that Malaysia is “not a secular state” which is endorsed by the Parliament Speaker, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia.
The Gerakan suggestion of a “special bipartisan committee” to resolve the “varying views on the secular or Islamic state issue” is another classic case of political evasion, which also puts the cart before the horse.
The nub of the issue is why despite the ‘”varying views on the secular or Islamic state issue”, the Barisan Nasional Cabinet has taken the stand that Malaysia is not a secular state as represented by Jamil Khir’s parliamentary reply, violating not only the fundamental provisions in the Merdeka Constitution 1957 and Malaysia Agreement 1963 but the assurances and commitments of the founding fathers of Malaya and Malaysia?
When was this tectonic shift on the fundamental basis of the Malaysian Constitution and state taken by the Barisan Nasional Federal Government Cabinet and was it empowered to do so and endorsed by the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council?
Surely the Gerakan call for a “special bipartisan committee” to resolve the “varying views on the secular or Islamic state issue” is like “locking the door when the horses have bolted” – both too little and too late!
If Jamil Khir’s parliamentary statement was both an “unguided” and “misguided” missile making an completely unauthorised and untruthful Barisan Nasional position that Malaysia is not a secular state, why has Jamil Khir’s parliamentary speech not yet been repudiated and disowned by the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister?
The first thing that must be done is to get back to the basics, to restore the original status of Malaysia as a secular state as stipulated by the original Constitutional provisions and the founding fathers of the nation.
With the issue of desultory and half-hearted “personal” views by MCA and Gerakan leaders who do not seem to be serious in wanting to ensure that the original intention, both in words and spirit, of the nation’s founders and signatories to the Merdeka Constitution and Malaysia Agreement 1963 are strictly adhered to, thinking Malaysians are entitled to ask why the Cabinet meeting last Friday failed to countermand and repudiate Jamil Khir’s new-fangled interpretation of the Malaysian Constitution that Malaysia is not a secular state.
Furthermore, why the MCA and Gerakan Presidents and leaderships have not decided or dared to requisition an emergency meeting of the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council, where the votes of the 13 component parties would ensure a decisive 12-1 rejection of Khir Jamil’s parliamentary stand on behalf of the Barisan Nasional Cabinet that Malaysia is not a secular state.
Can Liow and Mah, as well as the other leaders of the non-UMNO Barisan Nasional component parties, explain why they are afraid of requisitioning an emergency meeting of the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council to put to rest, once and for all, all doubts that Malaysia in accordance with the original constitutional provisions and the assurances and commitments of the founding fathers of nation, was founded and forever meant to be a secular state with Islam as the official religion?
(Speech at the DAP Bukit Gelugor by-election thanksgiving ceramah in Air Itam, Penang on Saturday, 21st June 2014 at 9.30 pm)