Banking on moderation

Nazir Razak

(The Star) – You can put your money on the voices of moderation in this country. One of the nation’s biggest bankers and top corporate leaders, Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, is throwing his weight behind the movement.

The chairman of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd – one of the leading banks in Asean – believes the voices of extremists cannot be allowed to be the loudest and dictate our social and political discourse.

“I am glad more and more ordinary Malaysians have come out to speak up. We need to. Malaysians are all in this together,” he said.

“I support the advocates of moderation, members of the majority who no longer want to remain silent. I am glad that they are speaking up even when faced with insults and personal attacks.”

He commended The Star for initiating the Voices of Moderation campaign and agreed with the open letter issued last month by the G25 (a group of 25 eminent Malays), which called for a moderate approach to resolving disputes on the position and application of Islamic laws in Malaysia.

“We should also discuss the role of Islam and Islamic law, and how they co-exist with our multiracial society, Constitution and civil laws. We must also ask if we need to recalibrate our education polices and system.

“The longer we leave these big issues unaddressed, the longer we will continue to drift socially, politically and economically,” warned Nazir, one of the few CEOs who frequently make public their thoughts on national issues and government policies.

The next step, he said, should be the setting up of a National Consultative Committee, similar to the one formed in the wake of the May 13, 1969 riots, to “comprehensively look at our increasingly divided nation and recommend a new way forward”.

“We must not wait for things to fall apart (and that is the direction we are headed in) before we act,” he said in an interview with Sunday Star.

Nazir called for a review of the policies that have a deep impact on unity in Malaysia.

“In the late 1960s, we learnt some very hard lessons about extremism in our multiracial and multireligious country.

“Our leaders came up with a new formula for how to preserve peace and stability, which included limits on freedom of expression and the New Economic Policy.

“I think it is time to look at refreshing the formula to be more relevant for today’s world,” he said.

To do so, he added, we should look back to our better days as a nation and the principles and aspirations of our founding fathers.

Nazir’s outspokenness has sometimes triggered personal attacks – complicated further by the fact that he is the brother of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak – but he believes that people in leadership positions ought to speak up to help make the country better.

“Those who exploit sensitive issues to incite anger and hatred should be taken to task by the authorities without fear or favour.

“Freedom of expression does not mean freedom to insult other religions, races or languages, and when people cross the line, whoever they are, we must ‘throw the book’ at them with consistency.”