Tuesday 12 August 2008

Malaysians must affirm free speech and denounce religious intolerance

Surely all right thinking Malaysian must support what this statement says.

Religious, racial and ethnic intolerance and inciting communal intolerance and hatred must be strongly condemned.

Freedom of speech and peaceful assembly to discuss any issue, even the so called 'sensitive' issues, should be allowed, indeed encouraged

Difficult issues will not simply go away, if they are disregarded, swept under the carpet or simply ignored.

Malaysians need to learn be more tolerant, more mature and must learn to live and let live, religion should be a voluntary, personal, and private issue, and no government, political party, group or individual should dictate to others about it.

Each and every person should respect and honour another's perception and belief of any religion.

Narrow-mindedness, bigotry and ignorance will only cause disunity and breed discontent and hatred.

Please read the Joint press Statement below.

Dewan Perhimpunan China Kuala Lumpur dan Selangor

The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

Joint Press Statement issued on 12th August 2008

Malaysians must affirm free speech and denounce religious intolerance

We the undersigned organizations call upon all Malaysians to categorically express their disapproval of the actions of a small minority that resorted to intimidatory action to stop the forum on "Conversion to Islam: Art 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution, Subashini & Shamala Revisited" organized by the Bar Council on August 9.

While it is necessary for all Malaysians to be mindful of religious sensitivities, such respect must not extend to the condoning of extreme acts which are aimed at curbing legitimate public discussion.

In the specific case of the Bar Council seminar, we are given to understand that it was primarily an effort aimed at helping to clarify various legal and administrative provisions on religious conversion issues.

The forum could have provided useful inputs on helping resolve recent controversial developments had it not been unfairly misrepresented by various quarters, including the Government.

In fact, the organizers had taken the initiative to invite distinguished speakers from the Federal Territory Religious Affairs Department and Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKMI). Both speakers however declined invitation apparently after the forum was demonized by some quarters.

We uphold the right of our fellow Malaysians to exercising their freedom to dissent and even to engage in peaceful demonstration in defence of their concerns. If the protest outside the Bar Council had been civil and dignified, it would have been fully acceptable.

Unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. Although no violence ensured, the resort of rough action and abusive shouts of "babi" (pigs), "pengkhianat" (traitors) and "balik China" (return to China) indicate an alarming level of religious intolerance by this small minority. This is completely unacceptable to us and all right thinking Malaysians.

We also note with dismay the police submission to the pressure of the protesters and their "advice" to the organizers to bring about a premature end to the meeting. This guidance follows closely on the government's own earlier reaction to the planned event and its attempt to compel the organizers to call off the event. The blatant double standards employed by Government and police in dealing with the protestors and the forum subject raises questions about the even handed and fair treatment accorded to all religions that the Government and authorities claim is happening in the country.

In this connection too, we would like to express our disappointment with the participation of the members of three political parties, UMNO, PAS and PKR as well as two parliamentarians, Zulkifli Nordin (Kulim-Bandar Baru) and Sallahudin Ayob (Kubang Kerian) in the abusive group of demonstrators.

The top leadership of these three parties must instruct their members to avoid looking out for opportunistic or narrowly partisan political and religious advantage at the expense of national interest. PKR leaders' prompt censure of Zulkifli Nordin's abusive behaviour is therefore commendable and exemplary. prompt censure of Zulkifli Nordin's abusive behaviour is therefore commendable and exemplary.

Finally we note with concern and condemn the petrol bombs attack directed at the previous house of Bar Council President Dato' Ambiga Sreenevasan. We hope that there is no connection between that act and the role of the Bar Council in organizing the seminar and call on the authorities to fully investigate that action and bring the perpetrators to book.

The Undersigned Organizations:

1. Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI)

2. Civil Rights Committee of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)

3. Civil Society Initiative for Parliamentary Reform (CSI-Parliament)

4. Council of Malaysian Indian Trustee

5. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)

6. Malaysia Youth and Student Democratic movement (DEMA)

7. Persatuan Kebajikan Cahaya Wawasan Selangor

8. Persatuan Kebajikan Bharatham Selangor

9. Persatuan Kebajikan Vanniar Klang

10. Pertubuhan Belia Hindu Pelabuhan Klang

11. Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)

12. Youth Section of Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH-YS)

This signature campaign is initiated by Civil Rights Committee of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH) and Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI).

Issued by

Mr Ser Choon Ing, (Chairperson, Civil Rights Committee of KLSCAH)

Mr Wong Chin Huat (Chairperson, WAMI)

For any details, please contact:

The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall

NO. 1, Jalan Maharajarela,

50150 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-22746645

Fax: 03-22724089

The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) is the umbrella organization of over 400 various Chinese community-based organizations in Klang Valley. The Civil Rights Committee (CRC) is a subsidiary committee of the KLSCAH specially tasked with the advocacy of civil rights.

WAMI is a group of writers for the Chinese media in Malaysia, which aims to defend and promote media independence for freer public discussion and wider democratic space. It was formed by about 90 writers who quit writing for the mainstream Chinese media in May 2001, in protest of the coerced takeover of the non-partisan Nanyang Press by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a ruling coalition member party. For further information please visit www.wami528.com

Bonum commune communitatis

- General welfare. Literally, common good of the community

1 comment:

Donplaypuks® said...

Even in a cliche-ridden world, you are kidding yourself if you think the reacion over the Bar Council Forum was the work of ' a small minority.'

We underestimate the opposition to a Secular Malaysia at our own peril. Most of our learned judges,including a Biggie who was recently compensated millions, have proposed going the Syariah route.

The Bar Council and others will have to strategise and plan better, tone down on their rhetoric and enagage in more behind-doors consultation if they want to see acceptable results.

My conclusion? Bar Council -1 (own goal): Protesters - 0.
refre my posting 'Bejing Olympics Rocked by Scandal One.'