Somnambulant Governance at work (2) – “Ban” of International Building Bridges Conference 2007 in KL

On Wednesday, I asked in Parliament whether the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was crafting a new form of governance – somnambulant governance. Oxford Dictionary defines “somnambulism” as “sleepwalking”.

I posed this question when Abdullah’s public response to the proposal by the Malaysian Indian Youth Council (MIYC) for the establishment of a department for Non-Muslim Affairs to handle sensitive issues pertaining to religion resulted in two extraordinary developments:

Firstly, producing three different newspaper headlines the next day – that the government was setting up such a department, to the government studying the proposal and an outright dismissal of the proposal as “not necessary”.

Secondly, his “on-the-run” Cabinet appointments of MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting as Minister for Buddhist Affairs, MIC President Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu as Minister for Hindu Affairs and President of United Pasokmomogun Murut Organisation (UPKO) as Minister for Christian Affairs – which rate as the most highly-kept secret of the Abdullah administration as it is not only the 26 million Malaysians and the various religious organizations directly involved who are not aware of such Cabinet appointments.

I had congratulated one of the Ministerial trio on Wednesday for his additional Cabinet responsibilities but he was so embarrassed as he did not know how to react to the Prime Minister’s announcement when he knew nothing about it!

I will give another example of Abdullah’s somnambulant governance which is also pertinent to the problem of increasing religious polarization in Malaysia, worst under any Prime Minister in the 50-year history of the nation.

Seven months ago, I had written a blog “Strange, stranger and strangest” on the sudden cancellation of the International Muslim-Christian dialogue – the unique annual series of Building Bridges Conference organized by Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury which brings together Christian and Muslim scholars of international reputation in a seminar examining major themes of current intrest and importance from a religious perspective.

I had raised in Parliament the last-minute cancellation of the Building Bridges 2007 Conference in Kuala Lumpur from May 7-11 in Parliament on May 10, 2007 during the debate on the interim report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Unity and National Service, describing it as “a big blow to our international reputation as a successful and model multi-religious nation”.

I had said during the debate in Parliament:

“The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi goes to international forums to preach the virtues of inter-religious dialogue but at home, the government is not prepared to allow an international inter-religious conference to be held.

“In the country, we also do not encourage the holding of inter-religious dialogue involving Muslim and non-Muslim religions, limiting inter-religious dialogue more and more only among the non-Muslim faiths themselves.

“This will not contribute to inter-religious understanding and national integration.

“Malaysia is a multi-religious nation but religion had never been a flashpoint of division, disunity and discord in our society until the recent years.”

The Prime Minister then broke his silence and said that the international Building Bridges Muslim-Christian dialogue had not been cancelled but postponed because he had to attend to some urgent matters that coincided with the seminar which was scheduled for May 7-11, 2007.

He said he did not want the inter-religious conference to proceed without him.

Abdullah said: “I have an important role to play in the conference and I don’t want it to be held when I am not around.” The government would have to find another suitable date for the international inter-religious dialogue.

This provoked my “Strange, Stranger and Strangest” blog for the following grounds:

Strange because when news first broke in London Times on May 10, 2007 that there had been a “last-minute cancellation” of Building Bridges Conference in Malaysia, nobody knew its reason despite numerous attempts by various persons and bodies responsible for organizing it to seek explanation from the authorities. The international Muslim-Christian dialogue was cancelled with just a short two-week notice although it was mooted a year ago causing great disruptions as many international participants had finalized their flight arrangements.

Stranger because when I raised the last-minute cancellation in Parliament on the very same day, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Maximus Ongkili could not respond as he knew nothing about it although he is a member of the Cabinet.

Strangest because no date has yet been fixed for the “postponed” international Muslim-Christian dialogue – which was really unthinkable, raising questions about the Prime Minister’s seriousness in “walking the talk” to promote inter-religious dialogue in international forums.

Now the truth is out and the cat is out of the bag. The last-minute abortion of the Building Bridges Conference 2007 in Kuala Lumpur was no “postponement” but “cancellation” – as the 2007 Building Bridges Conference was held in Singapore on December 6, 2007 where the Archbishop of Canterbury was the keynote speaker who gave a lecture on why social cohesion needs religion.

The Building Bridges Conference 2007, which follows from similar seminars in London, Qatar, Sarajevo and Washington, was hosted by the Department of Malay Studies, the Religion Research Cluster, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and the University Scholars Programme all based at the National University of Singapore.

The Prime Minister should explain why he could not find the time in the whole of 2007 to fit the Building Bridges Conference into his schedule so that he could participate in the inter-faith dialogue in Malaysia.

Or has the prestigious international Muslim-Christian dialogue been banned without having to use the dirty word “ban” altogether – a manifestation of somnambulant governance?

  1. #1 by k1980 on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 1:48 pm

    If India can do it, why not malaysia?
    An Indian court on Thursday ordered police to complete a probe into charges that a bribe was paid in a multi-billion dollar deal to buy Scorpene submarines from a French defence firm.

    The Delhi High Court told the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to complete its inquiry within three months and report back to a two-judge bench.

    The judges also told the CBI to press criminal charges against “accused persons” if it could establish an offence had been committed in the 2.4 billion euro (three billion dollar) deal.

  2. #2 by lakshy on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 1:55 pm


    Sleepwalking you say? I think he is almost comatose, getting to brain dead is more likely. Thats why no reaction to anything. And thats why the umnoputras can do and get away with anything.

  3. #3 by oknyua on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 1:57 pm

    “I had congratulated one of the Ministerial trio on Wednesday for his additional Cabinet responsibilities but he was so embarrassed as he did not know how to react to the Prime Minister’s announcement when he knew nothing about it!” YB Lim

    YB Lim, sorry, but I have another good laugh again.

    “Always pray to God for guidance and Allah will help.” AAB. Star 21.12.07. I am not making fun of the sentence becaue it’s true and I only hope AAB meant that when he appointed the Ministers and not somnambulant(ly).

  4. #4 by lakshy on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 1:59 pm


    We all know that tehre were kickbacks for the umno guys for their weapons purchase. But as long as malaysians keep voting bn into power, nothing will ever be investigated or brought to court. The excesses of these guys are covered by their friends. Its like honour among thieves.

    The best insurance policy for malaysian citizens is to have a credible alternative government. That way, the excesses of the former ruling party will be brought to book by the next ruling party. And the ruling party will worry about their excesses as they will be concerned about not getting re-elected and hence facing the courts.

    Thats what we have to head towards to see proper development for our county.

  5. #6 by madmix on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 2:46 pm

    Fact is no UMNO leaders will sit down and hold a conference with Kafirs as this will put Christianity and other religions at par with Islam. This would be belittling Islam and considered blasphemy. Other religions are false teachings and their followers will end up in hell.
    Note the present controversy where Catholics in their publication referred to God as Allah; this has offended the authorities who will not not renew their publishing license. Allah is the one true Deity of Islam and other false religions cannot use the name in vain.

  6. #7 by Jeffrey on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 3:11 pm

    What – MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting as Minister for Buddhist Affairs, MIC President Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu as Minister for Hindu Affairs and President of United Pasokmomogun Murut Organisation (UPKO) as Minister for Christian Affairs?

    I understand that this might be in response to request by leaders of some 40 Indian-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) calling on the Prime Minister’s Department to set up a Non-Muslim Affairs Department to solve issues confronting the non-Muslims, not only Hindus but people of other religions as well – Bernama report of December 16, 2007 22:29 PM
    With all due respect, I don’t like this at all.

    For 50 years we have not had any Minister for Minority/Non Muslim Affairs so why should we have one now?

    Because for the last 50 years non Muslims are a substantial minority; because they are supposedly represented by MCA and MIC; because our melting pot and much touted harmonious multi racial country is supposedly run by a cabinet drawn from ministers of different races based on power sharing concept; because every race in relation to the other know sufficient of the customs, traditions, religions, values, festivals of the others and so ought the leaders representing the different races.

    Against this backdrop, to have Minister in Charge of Minority Affairs or a Minister for Buddhist, Hindu or Christian Affairs now is to indirectly say that the government – represented notwithstanding by a multi racial cabinet – is so ignorant of minorities religious sensitivities and practices that we require a special minister in charge of affairs to rectify the situation. This is condescending BS.

    We’re not so minority to require on the government’s part special attention of a special minister supported by advisers with special knowledge in Buddhism, Hinduism or Christianity.

    The insensitivities arising from minorities rights being increasingly trampled (example, the demolishment of Indian temples) have nothing to do with local authorities not knowing customs and religious practices of minorities. It has nothing to do with the cabinet not knowing these sensitivities that we need specialised ministers for the task to uphold minorities’ interest. What are MCA’s MIC’s or Pasokmomogun Murut Organisation leaders in the cabinet there for?

    It is due to what was raised in last blog – increasing polarization on religious lines due to overzealous actions of local authorities and bureaucrats raised from the milieu of TDM’s 22 years of aggressive islamisation policies.

    The government should do example by telling local authorities and bureaucrats off when they cross the line to trample on other races sensitivities; it should do example by not breaking new ground from the past by holding the anchor political party annual general meeting on festival day – if one does not do by example because of supremacist attitudes, no Special Minister for Minorities or Buddhist, Hindu or Christian Affairs can ameliorate the polarization.

    To allow such a thing to take place (ie having special minister for religious affairs of minorities) is indirectly admit that we increasingly cannot control the progressive lack of tolerance of multi racial practices by majority (which should not be allowed to take place in the first instance) and to give credence to the impression that we’re fast into a true Islamic theocratic state ala PAS style that requires a special minister for non muslim affairs because the ideology of the majority is supposedly all embracive and exclusive of those not of the main religion.

    NGOs should blindly follow India if she has a special ministry for minorities. This is because there are many many minorities all over a big sub continent and the majority race represented in government is, I presume, proportionately very big in relation to the minorities.

  7. #8 by Jeffrey on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 3:15 pm

    Sorry typo error rectified in capital – “….NGOs should NOT blindly follow India…”

  8. #9 by mendela on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 3:15 pm

    Bodowi is a talented guy.
    In his “sleepwalking”, he can tell lies too!

    BTW, did he apologize to Malaysians on his lies to international media on “half of non-Malays and non-Muslims” were in his cabinet?

  9. #10 by lakshy on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 3:59 pm


  10. #11 by oknyua on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 4:07 pm

    YB Lim,

    This is cow-head nonsense lah. What can the ministers do? Say a Church got burnt, we turn to Bernard, what can he do? Now Chong KK sued the Municipal for Ma Zhu – what can Ong KT do? In the first instant why allow situation to disintegrate to that level?

    Or is this just another escape clause in the administration. Say a church got burnt;
    1. Fill a 6 pages complaint form.
    2. Enclose a Police Report,
    3. submit it to Jabatan Orang Kristian manned by a someone other than a Christian,
    4. wait for a cabinet meeting,
    5. wait for 3 months for the answer to investigate
    6. Wait another 3 months for the result of the investigation…
    7. until the complinants got fed up.
    Is that the aim?

    The answer is mutual respect. If your respect others, your officers would follow likewise.

  11. #12 by Cinapek on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 4:13 pm

    YB, perhaps you can clarify this.

    Was the “Building Bridges Conference” scheduled to be held in Malaysia initially in recognition of our multicultural and multireligious heritage? If it is, then AAB has lost the biggest opportunity to showcase our multireligious heritage to the world and scuttled whatever credibility he has whenever he makes the claim of Islam Hadhari and its very religiously tolerant teachings.

    YB, you asked AAB why he cannot find the time to hold the Building Bridges Conference? He has to make more than 80 trips overseas in the short period he has been PM so obviously he cannot find time for such mundane matters. In between he has to find time to get married, open nasi kandar restaurant in Perth, go sailing with Jean Todt and Michelle Yeoh and also recuperate from all these travellings to catch up on lost sleep and jet lags.

    Tough job being PM.

  12. #13 by Libra2 on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 5:15 pm

    This Roving PM is not only a sleepwalker, but also a compulsive liar while wearing the Islam Hadhari hat. He is also corrupt and abuses his power. According to RPK’s Malaysia Today, he could hardly qualify as a clean guy.
    BUT HIS BIGGEST PROBLEM IS, HE DOES NOT KNOW HE IS THE NAKED EMPEROR we read about in the fairy tales when we were in school.
    Yes, he is naked and everyone around him are telling him how wonderful he looks in his clothes.

  13. #14 by boh-liao on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 6:26 pm

    Don’t expect much from the current government.

    Residents in Malaysia have been ill-treated for so many years. The government cannot even guarantee a basic essential commodity: clean and drinkable water from our taps. People have to buy and install filters in their homes to filter their tap water in order to have clean water or to buy bottled water. Both are not cheap. What about the poor families who cannot afford both? They have to consume unhygenic water and to be exposed to toxic compounds in there, day after day.

    And the government wants to waste money on another space traveller! Truly spaced out!

  14. #15 by Malaysia for Malaysians on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 7:00 pm

    Malaysia = UMNO’s playground

  15. #16 by 1eyecls on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 7:38 pm

    so if we are all kafirs,y not separate the inland revenue into kafirs and non-kafirs,see whether the kafirs’ IRD will hv enuff fund to support the public utilities, as well as the kafirs’ govt. 2 million servants!


  16. #17 by benny on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 7:51 pm

    To some extend i do agree if the imam said that ka ting as minister for buddhist affair and president of UPKO as minister of christian affair.But samy as minister of hindu affair is impossible bcoz he cant even take care of his family affair.He remain as the president of MIC bcoz of dictatorship in the party but [deleted]

  17. #18 by shaolin on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 8:56 pm

    Our PM AAB is best known to sleepwalking during the
    day. In the conference or parliament meeting he can
    also dozzzzzzes off… not to mention meeting after
    office hours…!!

    He is well known as ‘Sleepy PM’!!

  18. #19 by 1eyecls on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 10:24 pm


  19. #20 by motai on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 10:42 pm

    Pak Lah is not serious about Malaysia’s well being – 18/12/2007 12:37
    I am aware that the title of this posting is blanket in nature, and some may say I am being too harsh. Let’s look at what has happened in Malaysia recently:-

    1. The disaster of the Klang Port Free Trade Zone, where we suffered an estimated loss of around RM4.6 billion. Till now, there is an eerie silence from the government about this. I am sure some cronies are now enjoying the Tax Payers money, whilst we have poor and marginalised Malaysian all over the country.

    2. Dato Zakaria – need I say more of this person. My young nephew recently told me his ambition is to be a Klang’s (yes he was specific about the town) Town Council member. He felt if Zakaria can build such a huge house by just being a Town Council member, better do that than slog over an Affidavit or due diligence in a law firm (I was tring to convinve him that a career in law is rewarding). I am still hoping my nephew is joking.

    3. IPCMC – Pak Lah has absolutely cut the IPCMC Bill to shreads and come out with this extremely lame and deplorable version called SCC. The Commission is nothing more than a ‘Complaint’ centre. We might as well use Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam’s complaint bureau, instead.

    4. When he had the oppurtunity to listen to the Malaysian, he chose to use ISA. Think, Mr Prime Minister. Why are there so many Malaysian protesting? Dont you see that there must be something wrong with the system? These people may not be in your good book for protesting, but the cause which brought them to protest, is something you must look into.

    But just like Mahathir, you took the easy way out and be a wimp by unleashing ISA.

    I’ve so many more examples, which will likely bore the readers. So I wont go on with examples of Pak Lah’s lack of Leadership quality.

    But I feel the new year has little hope. We will continue to live under the dark gloom of corruption. Malaysia will still be lead by people who cares only about themselves and not the country itself. We are no different than some African nations who are led by greedy and selfish leaders. Our only difference is that we are not in Africa, but in South East Asia.

  20. #21 by toyolbuster on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 11:11 pm


  21. #22 by UzMiNoOnist on Friday, 21 December 2007 - 11:56 pm

    “Malaysia will still be lead by people who cares only about themselves and not the country itself” … Motai

    Well said Motai.

    May I add, Malaysia is lead by people who care only about their party, religion and race.

  22. #23 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Saturday, 22 December 2007 - 3:39 am

    We have a huge, huge blistering headache on our land.

    It’s obvious only Bodohland can stand a somnabulant PM;

    A lying PM who closes both eyes to every scam

    yet quotes holy scriptures like a good Imam.


    An invertebrate, something he fails to bare;

    he now begs people to support him everywhere.

    Somnabulance, nonchalance, incompetence – the people’s fear;

    Pardon me, PM, you have no place here!

    It’s best now you return to your sweetheart Jeanne dear

    To Kepala Batas, away from Putrajaya, this is divinely clear!

  23. #24 by DiaperHead on Saturday, 22 December 2007 - 5:04 am


  24. #25 by izrafeil on Saturday, 22 December 2007 - 5:23 am

    We need credible, moral, corrupt free, fair alternative government and the Barisan Alternative is one that will get my vote this time around!

  25. #26 by ahluck on Saturday, 22 December 2007 - 7:41 am

    Please don’t delete comments. i see this is the place where we can cry out our frustration on our country and leaders. don’t delete msg please.

  26. #27 by sj on Saturday, 22 December 2007 - 7:43 am

    He is simply not interested and not motivated. All he is interested is how to set a plan into motion of moving to Australia to open his nasi kandar shop.

  27. #28 by ChinNA on Saturday, 22 December 2007 - 5:08 pm

    Many of the monotheist religions are exclusive. This means either you are for them or against them.

    There is no concept of inclusive acceptance.

    An example of this is found in the Bible:
    Matthew 12:30 He that is not with me is against me;

  28. #29 by cheng on Sunday, 23 December 2007 - 1:47 am

    Please don’t expect the guy who sleep on the job to buck up. I think he doesn’t even know that quite a number of those who checked “Buddhism” in the religion column are not Buddhists. Some are Taoists and some are practising the teaching of Confucius. With all that being said, Sikhism is now being marginalized. Ask that guy again, which minister is taking care of that ?

  29. #30 by Malaysia for Malaysians on Sunday, 23 December 2007 - 11:00 pm

    My dear Malaysian friends,

    The Opposition wave is thundering in Asia….started from Australiam, it has blown to Korean. Coming next will be Thailand and Taiwan…..

    Malaysia’s current government’s days are numbered too….we Malaysians should VOTE this government OUT!!!

  30. #31 by Jonny on Tuesday, 25 December 2007 - 1:46 pm

    The politicians are using religion as a tool to further entrench their power and stronghold. Which ensures continuous supply of wealth up to 10 generations of theirs.

    Just look at Zakaria’s palace. I wonder how many balls he is holding. How many people is involved in all that corruption. As everyone is close one eye on him. I believe, the whole system is corrupted.

  31. #32 by 1eyecls on Tuesday, 25 December 2007 - 1:59 pm

    Jonny,nowadays blind ppl also became Senator,close -1- eye has to step asidelah!;-)

  32. #33 by 1eyecls on Tuesday, 25 December 2007 - 2:03 pm

    zakaria is involved in Selangor Badminton Association,Kera Jahanam is involved in Football Association,our arena of sports is full of these gobloks,SIGH!

  33. #34 by hasbin on Tuesday, 25 December 2007 - 8:55 pm

    My late grandfather was blind,so Jonny i appreciate if we could leave the blind or the infirm out of our discussion. Lets focus on educating those who are blind at heart instead.

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