Hindraf believes Minister in PM’s department is either ill-informed, ignorant or deliberately chooses to ignore history in denying that Malaysia is a secular state

P Waytha Moorthy

P.Waytha Moorthy

We urge the Minister to read the pre- independence documents before deciding to answer questions in Parliament.  In the pre-independence discussions the Malay Rulers very clearly stated that they do not wish to make Malaya an Islamic state but wants to ensure the Muslim religion is the religion of the federation in ceremonial matters. In their submissions to the Independent Reid Constitutional commission, the Malay rulers agreed that they wish to abide by a constitutional monarchy similar to the UK monarchy system whilst maintaining that the Islam religion should not be a federal matter but confined to the respective states and their Sultans who would act as the head of the Muslim religion.

It must be remembered that prior to independence the States of Penang and Malacca was a crown colony which enjoyed full religious freedom. Those 2 states enjoyed the protection of Her majesty’s Queen and hence Islamic matters were not part of the 2 states administration as Muslims in those states adhered to the civil system. During independence negotiations both the Malay Rulers and the Alliance Government who were the main players in the making of the Malayan Constitution agreed to a secular nature of Constitution and Laws to incorporate those 2 states  failing which probably the Penang and Malacca secession movement would probably be successful in not joining the Federation during independence in 1957.

In 1963 when Sabah  Sarawak and Singapore was incorporated in the new Malaysia as a result of the signing of the Malaysia agreement which was endorsed in the UK Parliament, the roles of the Malay rulers as well as the Yang Dipertuan Agong changed drastically. It must be remembered Sabah and Sarawak made it a condition that the 2 states are free from religion. This point is embedded in the Batu Sumpah in Sabah which remains till today.

Let me quote Para 57 of the White paper on the Federation of Malaya 1957

“Proposed Federal Constitution with a declaration that Islam is the religion of the Federation. This will no way affect the present and future position of a the federation as a secular state (emphasis added)”

The then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman echoed the sentiment:

“ I would like to make it clear that this country is not an Islamic state as it is generally understood that we merely provide Islam shall be the official religion of the state (Hansard 1st May 1958)”

Reports of Commission of Enquiry North Borneo, Sarawak 1962 (Cobbold Commission) along with Inter Government Committee report clearly maintained and reinstated the position of secularism prior to entry of North Borneo and Sarawak into Malaysia.

Judicial views such as from Datuk Hashim Yeop Sani, S.C.J in his observation has clearly stated on Article 3:

“There was a general agreement that if such a provision was to be inserted, it must be clear that it would not any way affect the civil rights of the Non-Muslims. The word Islam is the religion of the Federation appearing in clause(1) of that Article has no legal effect and the intention was probably to impose conditions of federal ceremonies to be conducted according to Muslim rites”.

Many sensible legal and common sense driven luminaries in the past like Raja Azlan Shah, L.P, Abdul Hamid L.P and Abdoolcader J have resonated the similar views.

The blatant disregard on the secular position of the nation and creation of double standard is attributable to the silence or avoidance of the Federal court to ascertain its own position as one of the pillar of democracy without fear or favor to uphold the truth.

The Minister is not acting responsibly in declaring on behalf of the Government that Malaysia is not a secular state. He seem to be fanning ideas and encouraging Islamic NGO’s and bodies which are already  bulldozing  into the lives of the non- Muslims in Malaysia with impunity and total disregard to the supreme law of the nation. The recent bible and wedding raid in Selangor are clear examples.

It is critical at this juncture of our nations’s legal and political history that the original covenants of our Federal Constitution and desire of the forefathers are upheld to continue on the spirit that it was built on and created without being further imperiled by ideological and extremism, be it race or religion or haphazard politicans.