PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and the Government have to be congratulated for not tabling PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s Bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act or RUU355.
Indeed, it is to the Prime Minister’s, as well as the Government’s, credit that Barisan National has accepted the harmonious consensus of the Barisan component parties as well as the strong views of some opposition parties and many Malaysians throughout the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak!
The Government’s decision is a big vote for wasatiyyah (moderation) and strengthens domestic and foreign confidence that this Government can “walk the talk”.
However, I must confess that I, like many other Malaysians and especially the non-Muslims, was quite uncertain as to how the Government would move on this sensitive and fundamental issue with all its serious implications on the future direction of our beloved country.
Now, we hope the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat will wisely use his characteristic sound judgement to follow the Government’s and Opposition’s broad consensus by rejecting any notion to vote on Hadi’s Bill.
We can sigh in relief now and be more confident that the Government would also pursue the principles of wasatiyyah more effectively than before.
There has been much doubt over the Government’s commitment to implementing wasatiyyah. As feedback to the Government, and not being negative in any way, I have to say there has been considerable doubt over its intent to actively promote wasatiyyah.
Some would ask where moderation is when certain students get scholarships while their peers who have done better all round don’t. Others might ask why they aren’t being promoted faster in the civil service while their lesser qualified or less competent colleagues streak past them. Then there are licences, land alienation, permits, and government contracts awarded to poor performers, often wasting public funds.
Actually, wasatiyyah can only be properly implemented when Government policies are fair to all. The race and religious elements must be carefully and steadily phased out over a set time period, but not too long. All policies should be based on basic needs and merit, fairness and moderation. Regardless of race and religion, all Malaysians should be given the basic needs like education, housing, security, good environment, health and transport facilities equitably.
The National Wasatiyyah Policy (DWN) was launched on Oct 21 last year but we have not seen much that has been publicly promoted and implemented so far. Hence, I would propose that the Wasatiyyah Plan be publicised more intensely and widely. Furthermore, this Wasatiyyah Plan and its policies must be discussed in a bottom-up, not top-down, approach if they are to be fully supported by the rakyat.
The Prime Minister announced the five main objectives of wasatiyyah in Parliament on Tuesday, as follows.
1. Bolstering Malaysians’ understanding of the wasatiyyah approach as a bedrock in life. This is basically sound but the rakyat need to know more details on how this is to be achieved. Teaching wasatiyyah principles in schools alone is insufficient. Colleges, universities and the civil service and private sector must be fully involved to make wasatiyyah really work.
2. Resolving societal problems stemming from extremism, radicalism and integrity issues. To follow this principle, we have to come down harder on those who preach hatred, as proposed by the Sultan of Selangor and the Prime Minister, in all our policies and practices without exception.
3. Strengthening the appreciation of wasatiyyah to promote a high spirit of mutual tolerance. For this, we need to have concrete programmes like encouraging open house events during festivals and visiting each other’s place of worship. Now, however, this has been reduced by polarisation.
4. To develop a harmonious Malaysian identity that appreciates excellent values and ethics. Thus, we would be more exposed to the beauty of all religions and cultures. After all, religions primarily promote peace, goodwill and charity with our neighbours.
5. Inculcating moderation as a way of life in all aspects, including education, economy, administration, and politics. Surely, we all want good education for our children; an economy that brings more benefits to the poor; a more efficient administration with far less or no corruption; a more cultured society; and more professional politicians.
So let’s reject Hadi’s Bill and embrace Najib’s and the Government’s principles of moderation in all aspects of our lives. Let’s unite with all who believe in adopting and promoting the moderate Malaysian way of life now and in the future. And let’s make sure wasatiyyah really works and show the world Malaysia Boleh!
TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM
Asli Center of Public Policy Studies