Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah made an impassioned plea today for ordinary Malaysians to defend the supremacy of the country’s secular Constitution. He also urged the public to demand from political parties the adherence to such constitutional principles like equality of rights, separation of powers and the prevention of discrimination.
The veteran Umno leader appeared to take aim at his own party, as well as other politicians, in his speech at the launch of the book “Multi-Ethnic Malaysia” edited by Dr Lim Teck Ghee and published by UCSI University.
Tengku Razaleigh said ordinary Malaysians should demand that all political parties should not be allowed to propagate economic and political policies which discriminate against any citizen.
Political parties should also refrain from involvement in business, he said.
But, he said, Malaysians should rise up to defend the Constitution because it is the ultimate safeguard of fundamental liberties.
“One view put out by those who are impatient with these safeguards is that our Constitution is an external and Western imposition upon us, that it is the final instrument of colonialism.
“People have drawn on this view to subject the Constitution to some higher or prior principle, be it race, religion or royalty. Of course, the proponents of such views tend to identify themselves with these higher principles in order to claim extra-constitutional powers.
“These are transparent attempts at revisionism which erode the supremacy of the Constitution. We should have the confidence to reject such moves politely but firmly, whoever advocates them, whatever their social or religious status.”
Tengku Razaleigh pointed out that the Constitution was built by a deliberately consultative process aimed at achieving consensus.
In his speech, he also focused on the question of Islam and the Constitution.
“The question of whether the Federation should be an Islamic state, for example, was considered and rejected by the Rulers and by the representatives of the people. Had we wanted to be ruled by syariah, the option was on the shelf, so to speak, and could easily have been taken, because prior to this the states were ruled by the Sultans according to syariah law.
“The fact that we have a Constitution governed by common law is not an accident nor an external imposition. We chose to found our nation on a secular constitution after consultation and deliberation.”
He added that for Malaysia to continue to grow up as a country, its people needed to understand the Constitution and defend it.
“Today, in the aftermath of the scene-shifting election results of March 2008, people are restless and uneasy about the ethnic relations, and about their future. There is a sense of anxiety about our nation that is often translated into fear of ethnic conflict.
“I think we should not fear. On an inviolable foundation of equal citizenship, the rights of each and every community are protected. These protections are guaranteed in the Constitution.”
He said that what Malaysians should be uneasy about was the subversion of the Constitution.
Such subversion, he said, was only possible if Malaysians forget that the Constitution “belongs to us, protects us all, and underwrites our nationhood and we fail to defend it.”
Ordinary Malaysians, said Tengku Razaleigh, needed to demand from their political parties reforms that would embrace the spirit of the Constitution.
He said the entire political system needed reform to be in line not just with the Constitution but also the principles of the Rukun Negara.
“We should not expect our political parties to reform of their own accord. Leaders who owe their position to undemocratic rules and practices are the last people to accept reform.
“The people must demand it. I say we need a movement embraced by people at all levels and from every quarter of our rakyat to establish a national consensus on how our political parties should conduct themselves from now on.”
He said what was needed now was an empowered public because democracy in Malaysia was fragile.
Hope for a more democratic future, he said, depended on the ability to build a strong public opinion.
“It’s good news that a vigorous body of public opinion, aided by information and communication technologies, is in the making on the Internet. I myself rely on it through my blog.
“If not for my blog, what I say would scarcely get out in the mainstream media. We need a freedom of information Act, and I call for the repeal of the Printing Presses Act. It is silly that we limit the number of newspapers while every person with a blog or a twitter account can publish to the world.”
[Source: The Malaysian Insider]
Geronimo's Take: For once, it is comforting to hear a voice like that of Tengku Razaleigh emitting from UMNO. But the fact still remains in not what Tengku Razaleigh thinks but what the other bozos in UMNO think. There was never a doubt that Malaysia is never an Islamic State despite Mahathir's proclamation in September 2001. It was a matter of political expediency to compete against PAS. Lim Kit Siang was right when he said, immediately after the 1999 GE, that UMNO would be more Islamic than PAS and it had come to past. UMNO did not realise that in doing so, it provided the non-Muslims a chance to compare the type of Islamic practice by UMNO [depicting corruption, arrogance and waste] and PAS [depicting universal values]. As it turned out, PAS was found to be more palatable as a result of its kinder and softer approach. In fact, some non-Muslims said it was not bad if an Islamic State was in place then they could witness for themselves the hands of corrupts being hacked off. Then we have moderates in leaders like Khalid Samad and Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad who took upon themselves to be with the non-Muslims at their places of worships. That warmed the cockles of the Malaysian hearts. The image of Tok Guru Nik Aziz also changed dramatically and non-Muslims could see him as a respectable elderly person that one could do business with. If UMNO insisted that the country was an Islamic State, then would it go the way of Somalia where women are not even allowed to wear bras? See news report here. I can really imagine the 2,000+ male delegates at an UMNO general assembly fantasizing what is behind those silky baju kurang worn by the ladies of Wanita UMNO and Puteri UMNO. Food for thought, eh? So can we put the matter to rest that Malaysia is a secular state, period?