COMMENT | To Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad,
We would like to congratulate you on your second term as prime minister of Malaysia. We have been inspired by you not to make age 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 to you in our personal capacity as responsible and highly concerned Malaysians.
We fear that there is a heightened public discussion on race and religion in Malaysian society which 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 to hate speech, intimidation and threats of violence.
In this context, the issue of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) and the current public vilification of Minister in the Prime Minister's Department P Waythamoorthy are examples of public outrage which are not based on 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 the 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 can serve as the basis for fostering national reconciliation and social cohesion. The re-established NUCC can oversee the recommendations of the report, including the formulation of national harmony bills and the establishment of community mediation.
Second, establish a National Consultative Council on Transformative Economy, with inclusive and sustainable development as the core principles of 'leaving no one behind'. This is a strategy to prosper thy neighbour.
This can pave the way for the 12th Malaysia Plan. There must be a special economic agenda for B40 communities.
Third, that the federal government releases for public review, 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 parliamentary select committees and caucuses.
Fourth, on the matter of the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman temple riots, we hope that the government will give a clear public explanation, which could be in a form of a White Paper in Parliament, and a speedy trial of all the culprits, including those responsible for the tragic death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.
Fifth, on the matter pertaining to Waythamoorthy and the call from various quarters for his resignation, we believe that the public reaction must be countered with the hard facts of the person(s) responsible, and that 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 the miscommunication and a stronger collective responsibility and mutual support of fellow cabinet members.
We are happy to come and see you on these matters or serve in any capacity to assist in nation building.
Wishing you, your family, and the cabinet a Happy New Year.
Written by SIMON SIPAUN, ASIAH ABU SAMAH, RAMON NAVARATNAM, MICHAEL YEOH, AMBIGA SREENEVASAN, SHAD SALEEM FARUQI, KUTHUBUL ZAMAN BUKHARI, DANIEL HO and DENISON JAYASOORIA.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.