The last day of Parliament on Thursday was a black-letter day for nation building and national unity in Malaysia – not only because Parliament adjourned ahead of normal adjournment time at 5.30 p.m. of the day to disallow a debate on PAS President Datuk Seri Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill motion to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act or RUU 355, although Members of Parliament from Pakatan Harapan were prepared to take part in the debate, but also because the issue was allowed in the past year to become the most divisive issue in our plural nation of diverse races, religions and cultures.
It has been reported that the latest development in RUU 355 issue in the next meeting of Parliament will be an amendment to exclude the application of Hadi’s private member’s bill in Sabah and Sarawak so as to avoid the opposition of the 57 Sabah and Sarawak Members of Parliament – which will only highlight the divisive nature of the measure.
We should revisit the Pensiangan Formula which I proposed when visiting Pensiangan in Sabah last December to ensure that national unity should always be the paramount consideration for Members of Parliament, especially on controversial issues affecting religion.
The Pensiangan Formula which I proposed last December to resolve the political and constitutional impasse created by Hadi’s private member’s bill had comprised two elements, namely:
• the government should not take over Hadi’s private member’s bill, which should remain on the parliamentary order paper; and
• formation of an all-party Parliamentary Select Committee to study and make proposals on how to strengthen inter-religious relations in Malaysia based on the Malaysian Constitution, Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and Rukunegara, and which should study all proposals relating to religion, including Hadi’s private member’s bill motion.
As the first element of the Pensiangan Formula has become quite academic, we are left with the second element of an all-party Parliamentary Select Committee to take a large macro approach to promote national unity among the diverse races, religions and regions based on the fundamental nation-building documents, i.e. the Malaysian Constitution, the Malaysian Agreement 1963 and the Rukunegara 1970, including proposals like Hadi’s private member’s bill motion.
The Cabinet should seriously consider the Pensiangan Formula on promoting national unity among the diverse races, religions and regions in Malaysia through a Parliamentary Select Committee, where Hadi’s proposals can be given deeper study and consideration.
A Parliamentary Select Committee to promote greater national unity out of the diverse races, religions and cultures in Malaysia will make the 60th anniversary of Merdeka on August 31 1957 this year a most meaningful one.
(Speech at the DAP Kopitiam Ceramah in Johor Baru on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at 9 pm)