Kit Siang: Former PMs declared Malaysia a secular state

Karen Arukesamy and Hemananthani Sivanandam at the Dewan Rakyat
The Sun
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.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 8:29 am

    You really have to wonder. The ‘Islam is the official religion’ is in there because of a Pakistani Judge. You have to wonder whether Tunku did think Mahathir was Pakistani given he declared Malaysia and Islamic state and slided in Article 121(1a) admist the 1988 constitutional crises..

  2. #2 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 8:48 am

    See, didnt I say so. Umno diligently aims all its shots at its own two foot.

    Good one nazri. See if you could strike your big right toe next time. That would be double the goodness.

    And hmmm, so nazri you base your ridiculous statement on the fact that our constituion makes specific mention of islam unlike the constitution of usa etc etc.

    But the constitution says that islam shall be the “official religion” of the country. I am no expert in religion, much less in islam but hey what does islam make of its pronounced status as a mere “official” religion? In islam’s perspective, is that constitutional pronouncement sufficient to constitute the country as an islamic country?

    From a plain reading of that expression, it does not appear to be so. Well IMO, that is.

  3. #3 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 9:11 am

    At this point, the bigger issue really is that EVEN if we can correct the damage done to the Constitution and even if we can correct the mythology that has been build around this, what do we build in its place.

    In several decades, this country will be overwhelmingly Muslim. EVEN if they decide to correct the damage of Article 121(1a), simply just removing it is not sufficient for what Muslims in this country aspire for..

    Like it or not, we sit at the crossroad of ‘the great debate’ of Islam and the rest of the world. Ready or not, its part of the challenge of building this nation which we should lead rather than choosing to be participant or sit on the sidelines WHICH is the usual defacto in almost everything we do.

    What is clear is that absolute separation of religion (Islam) and state is no choice for this country. But how do you have state intervention in area when the wisest thing usually is to just stay out of it? Basically the best possible ideal is liberlitarian religious governance which in politics has proven to be impossible to achieve in the most liberal states.

    But whatever it is we come up with, lets agree that we should not do something we don’t know for sure – starting with getting rid of the mythology..

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 9:21 am

    “A secular state does not identify any particular religion as the official religion but people are allowed to practise their own religion”, says he law minister. That is true only when secular is expressly constitutionally mandated as in USA, India & Turkey. But otherwise its not necessarily the case as there’s many countries with official religions but are yet secular in governance and laws and allow their peoples to practice whatever religion or no religion as my earlier post (under current moderation) explains. It depends on the prevailing culture. Constitution can say anything but it’s not cast in stone and as all things expressed in words are vulnerable, it’s up for opportunistic interpretation. Tunku & Hussein Onn & Lord President Salleh Abas could say secular, but that was then, as Tun Dr Mahathir had thereafter aggressively Islamised the administration for 22 years, re-defined the national culture and identity and say its Islamic bequeathing it as legacy. TDM says it depends on facts prevailing. Can anyone dispute it’s an Islamic administration and not secular? It’s the question of what is –in fact- the reality aside from question of what it ought to be per constitution’s original intention or previous PM’s or Lord president’s pronouncements or even what’s good for the nation’s future. In saying its Islamic nation/state (to compete with PAS for Muslim malay support) Nazri is not going that far to say its an Islamic state of a theocracy kind. For that would not reflect reality that 40% of pop not Muslims and the fact that it would be against the capitalistic “Lu tolong gua, gua tolong lu!” culture & practices of the ruling elites.

  5. #5 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 9:40 am

    Tunku and Hussein Onn might have opined if not ‘declared’ Malaysia as a secular state but others can also make their own declarations.

    As an example, Mahathir had on two occasions I think said Malaysia is an Islamic country, in 1996 or 1997 and again in 2001. And Pak Lah also continued on to infuse his Islam Hadhari principles into his administration. Now Naj1b says everything his government does is based on Islamic principles and traditions.

    So we could now be a ‘secular’ state but infused with considerable Islamic influences until the day comes when more Islamic principles exist than secular principles and we then become an Islamic country like Saudi Arabia.

  6. #6 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 9:51 am

    Nazri might now challenge all those who disagree with his view to come out and stand for elections, get elected to Parliament and then amend the Constitution and other laws accordingly.

    Otherwise, the BN government holds sway and gets its way and its views and actions will be the ‘correct’ one. It can bulldoze anything through and what can the people do but be frus?

  7. #7 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 9:52 am

    MCA’s 16 resos in recent AGM include 1 condemning “DAP for misleading the Chinese community on PAS’s hudud laws, paving the way for the implementation of PAS’s agenda in Malaysia”. Conspicuously absent is MCA’s stand whether Malaysia or its constitution is Islamic or secular. Why don’t you ask Chua Soi Lek what’s MCA stand on this and what Nazri said ie Malaysia is not a Secular State, however its not fully Islamic either, meaning it is to a large extent???

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 10:18 am

    It raises the question whether here one can draw strict line in black and white terms whether the nation is secular or Islamic. Here nothing is (generally) that clear cut in black and white. One recalls when TDM first declared Islamic state MCA big wigs reconciled it by saying this a “secular Islamic state” never mind to many its an oxymoron! But what other concept is clear here – “1 Malaysia?” To one audience its inclusive multiracial pluralistic “one”; to another it’s all under one majority race’s dominant cultural characteristics. Take MCA – “Malaysian Chinese Association” does MCA represent Chinese when some say it stands for Make Chinese Angry or Malaysian Coward association??? Privatisation can become Piratisation. Malay includes Constitutional Malay. The fact here is seldom we can express something clearly in black and white lines -except possibly it’s a corrupt state – everything is rounded in inconsistencies and up for opportunistic interpretation, which as a benchmark for guidance is unfortunate but also exciting because its makes us multilateral in thinking. It’s the way we’re trained from social experience. For eg when a law is enacted here the first thing we do is think how to look for loophole and go around it. In a way we’re more streetwise than other nationals. .

  9. #9 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 12:03 pm

    When you have run out of facts and truths, you rely on lies, half truths and imagination to confuse the public. This is the level BN has stooped to! They still claimed that they are capable of getting the nation into the first world by 2020. At the rate they are going about to ‘SCREW’ the nation monetarily and mentally, the next few generations will have to crawl from the Black Hole indeed. It just reflects the situation we are in today and they have the audacity to seek from the people of this nation to give them another chance??? With hardly a handful of honest leaders left in their midst, Malaysians should think very, very carefully if they should even be considered as an alternative gomen!

  10. #10 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 2:14 pm

    Regardless of this debate, what is guaranteed is that given the mythology created by UMNO and they path they are taking this country, the religo-statism is only going to increase and hence chances of Islamic state higher.

    The only sure guarantee of avoiding Islamic state is REFORM today. Its why MCA cry of Hudud is completely empty. Without REFORM, PAS pose no bigger threat than UMNO and will be bigger threat at some future.

  11. #11 by bumiborn on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 2:37 pm

    Tunku was the party to the formation of our Constitution and HE DECLARED Malaysia a secular state.

    So, who’s Nazri to state otherwise? Even Mahathir and Badawi are not in position to state otherwise, simply because they were not there to draft the Constitution!

    ONLY Tunku is the bone fide witness to declare the gist of it. The rest are just wannabe.

  12. #12 by Godfather on Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - 3:04 pm

    So UMNO is doing the balancing act. To Muslims, they are defending an Islamic state. To non-Muslims, they are defending the secular way of life. So Malaysia is neither an Islamic state or a secular state, but is also both an Islamic state and a secular state.

    Little wonder that the highest court of the land will not lay down a definitive opinion in this matter.

  13. #13 by ringthetill on Thursday, 25 October 2012 - 1:48 am

    mr lks, they have short memories and are probably not well read or are too pre-occupied with coniving and who to bonk next.

You must be logged in to post a comment.