Walk the talk, Tee Keat!

MCA president Ong Tee Keat has made a bold declaration in his New Year message that he would be ready to lead the party to stand up to injustice, and engage any other like-minded forces to seek redress on issues of public concern.

By Thomas Lee

“We have to be bold and we have to be loud if and when we have to. We need to transform and energise the MCA that will be fearless in championing equal opportunities and a level playing field, not only for the Chinese community, but for all Malaysians,” Tee Keat said in his message.

Brave words, indeed, but can Tee Keat really fulfill such a tall order he has set for himself and the MCA?

Since he was elected MCA president in October 2008, many major issues concerned with civil liberties and human and constitutional rights of the people have emerged, but has he or the MCA taken any firm and principled stand on them?

Take the case of the “Allah” issue. The matter basically concerns the fundamental human and constitutional rights of the people to freely use, without restraints or restriction, Bahasa Malaysia, the national language, in their worship and practice of their faiths. It is contended that Bahasa Malaysia rightfully belongs to all citizens of Malaysia and there should be absolutely no monopoly of its usage of any Bahasa Malaysia words by any one particular race or religion.

What has Tee Keat and the MCA done to fight for this fundamental citizenship right of the people? Has Tee Keat or the MCA made any stand concerning this issue?

Take another case, this time concerning the long-standing oppressive legal instrument called the Internal Security Act or the ISA in short. What is the view of Tee Keat and the MCA on the use of this harsh law to detain opposition politicians and human right advocates by the authoritarian regime of which the MCA is a part?

Tee Keat has boldly stated that he will lead the MCA to fight injustice. I challenge him to make a public stand that he will support the revocation and repeal of this diabolical and repugnant legistration.

Another serious matter concerns the comments by Senior Federal Counsel Mohamad Naser Disa, who was quoted in theSun on Wednesday 25 November 2009, relating to proposed amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 dealing with the situation where one spouse in a non-Muslim marriage converts to Islam.

If Naser is correctly quoted, then it seems that the Federal Government is mainly concerned that a man who converts to Islam is “cruelly treated” because he cannot break his previous marriage contract and get a divorce.

What has Tee Keat and the MCA to say about Naser’s comments which, if they accurately reflect the proposed amendments, show that the gross injustices currently being committed against non-Muslim spouses, mostly women, by their husbands who convert to Islam, by the syariah courts and syariah authorities, and by the civil courts will likely continue? The worrying thing is that the proposals, if accepted, could indirectly result in Islamic law being enforced on the non- Muslim spouses, especially wives.

If Tee Keat is truly concerned about fighting against injustice, let him come out with some concrete actions on the matter. Let him and the MCA ministers in the cabinet ensure that non-Muslims will not be put at a disadvange by any amendment to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

These are just three of the major issues. There are many more. If Tee Keat is truly sincere and honest in wanting to “stand up to injustice, and engage any other like-minded forces to seek redress on issues of public concern”, then he must come out and make a clear stand on these fundamental issue. If he is not prepared to walk the talk, he should shut up, pack up and go into oblivion.
NOTE: Thomas Lee, who retired as a deputy editor in The Star, has been a socio-political analyst since he returned from studies in Australia in mid-1975.