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WE would like to congratulate Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on his second stint as Prime Minister of Malaysia. We have been inspired by him in not allowing age to be an obstacle in serving the nation. We have all been active in public policy discussions and have taken various voluntary roles in nation building. We write this letter in our personal capacities as responsible and highly concerned Malaysians.

We fear that there is a heightened public discussion on race and religion in Malaysian society that is not constructive to nation building. The said discourse is presented in a divisive way, as well as one which is too emotive and counterproductive to inter-religious dialogue and harmony. While we respect the government’s position on the democratic space to express dissenting views, we are of the strong belief that the government needs to set limits on hate speech, intimidation and threats of violence.

In this context, the Icerd (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) matter and the current public vilification of Senator P. Waytha moorthy are examples of public outrage that is not based on an objective assessment of the situation and issues. For the most part, it has been politicised to whip up sentiments against the government of the day.

We write this letter to highlight some possible ways to redeem the situation while still keeping democratic reform in place and enhancing public participation. This is to enable the nation to focus on the new Malaysia beyond 2020 and a review of the Vision 2020 agenda.

First, the government ought to re-establish the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) with members from a cross section of Malaysian society, including representatives of political parties, civil society and the private sector. The earlier NUCC report (released for public comment in October by the National Unity and Social Well-Being department) can serve as the basis for fostering national reconciliation and social cohesion. The re-established NUCC can oversee the recommendations of the report – the formulation of the national harmony Bill and the establishment of community mediation are imperative.

Second, establish a national consultative council on the transformative economy where inclusive and sustainable development are the core principles of “leave no one behind”. This is a strategy to prosper thy neighbour. This can pave the way for the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025). There must be a special economic agenda for the B40 (lower income) communities.

Third, the federal government should release the reports of the Council of Eminent Persons and the Institutional Reform Committee for public discussion and to see how these can be executed. The government should also give serious thought and consideration to the human rights and governance agenda through the Parliamentary select committees and caucuses.

Fourth, on the matter of the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple riots in Subang Jaya, Selangor, we hope that the government will give a clear public explanation – which could be in the form of a white paper in Parliament – and enable a speedy trial of all the culprits involved in the tragic death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.

Fifth, on the matter pertaining to Senator Waytha moorthy and calls from various quarters for his resignation, we believe that the public reaction must be countered with the hard facts of the person(s) responsible for the incident and the government must be able to provide the public with the right information to make an objective decision. While the appointment of ministers is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, we believe there is a need for political leadership to set right this miscommunication and show a stronger collective responsibility and mutual support for fellow Cabinet members. We are happy to see Dr Mahathir on these matters or to serve in any capacity to assist in nation building.

Wishing the PM and the Cabinet a Happy New Year.

RESPONSIBLE AND HIGHLY CONCERNED MALAYSIANS

Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, Tan Sri Datuk Dr Asiah Abu Samah, Tan Sri Datuk Dr Ramon Navaratnam, Tan Sri Datuk Dr Michael Yeoh, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, Emeritus Prof Datuk Shad Salem Faruqi, Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, Datuk Dr Daniel Ho, Prof Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria