The Cabinet on Wednesday should congratulate Cardinal Fernandez as the first Malaysian to be appointed as a Roman Catholic cardinal.
As a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation which is the site for the confluence of the great civilizations in the world, Malaysians should celebrate whenever a Malaysian regardless of race, religion or culture scaled new heights or achieved new accomplishments.
At the “Red Hat” ceremony in the Basilica of St. Peter’s at the Vatican on November 19 last year where Cardinal Fernandez was one the 17 new Cardinals who received the red hat (biretta), Pope Francis underlined the different cultural traditions of the new Cardinals.
He said: “We come from distant lands; we have different traditions, skin colour, languages and social backgrounds; we think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead it is one of our greatest riches…”
The Pope lamented the modern world in which “polarization” and “exclusion” are burgeoning and considered the only way to resolve conflicts.
Malaysians share similar concerns at the rise of polarization and exclusion not only on the global stage but also in Malaysian politics and life.
It is in this context that the Cabinet should take proactive steps to tamp down the rearing of the ugly heads of religious polarization and extremism in Malaysia, which threatens the fabric of plural Malaysia.
For this reason, I would urge the Cabinet to seriously and urgently consider the Pensiangan Formula as the best way to address the political and constitutional stalemate created by UMNO’s support for PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Awang Hadi’s private member’s bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act (Act 355).
The Pensiangan Formula comprises two elements, viz:
· Firstly, no government take over of Hadi’s private member’s bill; and
· Secondly, the formation in March Parliament of an all-party Parliamentary Select Committee with the overall objective to strengthen inter-religious relations in Malaysia based on the Malaysian Constitution, Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and Rukunegara, and with the specific objective to study Hadi’s private member’s motion, and to make recommendations.
This is the time to arrest the disease and perils of “polarization” and “exclusion” in our plural nation and the Pensiangan Formula should be the basis for the Cabinet and Parliamentary response to Hadi’s private member’s bill.