Thursday, September 23, 2010

Show maturity, support BN when beneficial, Zaid tells Pakatan

September 22, 2010

BATU PAHAT, Sept 22 – Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has told Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers to show political maturity and shake off fears of being unpopular by supporting the Barisan Nasional government’s policies if they were beneficial to the people.

The former Umno minister also urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to take a firm stand on sensitive issues that touch on race and religion, even if his deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, was against it.

This, he claimed, were the main ingredients needed if the country wanted to break free from divisive and race-based politics to achieve national unity.

In a summary of his speech on national unity delivered at a function in Batu Pahat tonight, Zaid (picture) stressed that leaders from both sides of the political divide needed to stop their petty bickering and show some political maturity by standing together on longstanding issues that needed to be resolved.

“A show of unity would send the right signal that elected representatives are the ones who decide on policies for the rakyat and not some theologian or bureaucrat.

“I believe the opposition must support the government when it is good for the people,” he said.

Zaid, who is now the Pakatan Rakyat coordinator and a contender in the PKR deputy presidency race, also said that bipartisan support in Parliament should be encouraged as it was a reflection of a mature democracy.

“This is especially when the government needs help in dealing with certain difficult issues,” he said.

He expressed disappointment that PR lawmakers had kept silent when the Najib Administration wanted to present three bills in Parliament to resolve sensitive, outstanding issues – the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, the Administration of Islamic Law Act 1993, and the Islamic Family Law Act 1984 – in early July last year.

The bills were aimed at clearing up some of the ambiguities in the country’s legal system pertaining to jurisdiction issues surrounding the Syariah law and common law, which have oftentimes caused much difficulties to families engaged in divorce matters, religious conversions or custody battles.

“Unfortunately of course, the Rulers Conference deemed it fit to review the bills themselves first and hence, the effort of the new Prime Minister was stopped and we have heard nothing since then.

“But still... PR parliamentarians had not taken the opportunity at the time to support the BN and the new PM to resolve these issues,” he lamented.

Zaid added that it was easy to talk about the intention to unite the nation and to come up with a to-do list on how to achieve it but finding a strong enough political resolve to do so was difficult.

“And this is where PR and BN must show some political maturity. It will be a test for [Prime Minister Datuk Seri] Najib [Razak] on the one hand and PR leaders on the other, on their commitment to national unity and political stability.

“The nation awaits to see an effective and responsible leadership to guide them through an uncertain future. This is the real challenge to all present political leaders,” he said.

Zaid claimed that former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s model of politics - to reign by securing and maintaining power at all costs – is contrary to the reconciliatory politics needed for nation-building.

“Najib’s new formula is 1 Malaysia. Will it work?” he asked.

Najib, he added, needed to take a firm stand when handling difficult issues pertaining to the racial diversity of the nation.

“The long walk that will really test the mettle and sincerity of our leaders is the handling and managing of difficult issues. Matters like the special position of the Malays under Article 153 of the Constitution, the position of Islam under Article 3, the equality of all citizens and religious freedom... these are issues that need to be clarified with honesty.

“A firm stand must be taken by Najib, even if his deputy (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) is against it. No pussy footing, no fudging to please only certain groups.

“Only a clear articulation of the government’s stand on these issues will coalesce into national building blocks of trust necessary for unity,” he said.

It has often been speculated that there was no love lost between Najib and his deputy Muhyiddin, who has been accused by the opposition as being a hindrance to the Prime Minister’s 1 Malaysia goals.

Although both men have denied a friction in their relationship, Muhyiddin’s controversial assertion once that he was a “Malay first and Malaysian second” has continued to stigmatise the BN administration as being fractured and falling apart.

Zaid also bleakly pointed out that Malaysia had only regressed over the past few years, claiming that the country could now hardly be called a “united nation”.

“Unity has deserted us. We need only to open the newspaper to see how one race is being pitted against another, or religious issues that are being played up so openly to antagonise or demean one group against one another.

“Teachers have become purveyors of sick ideologies. We need only to go on the internet to be bombarded with blog postings or video clips that scream bigotry and intolerance,” he said.

In recent days, the country was hit by a slew of racially-charged issues, further fuelled by bickering between political leaders in the BN leadership.

Among the issues were the racial slurs uttered by two school principals, one in Johor and another in Kedah, who had allegedly insulted their non-Malay students in front of their schoolmates.

While the opposition and many leaders in MCA and MIC spoke out to condemn both principals however, the BN government was seen as acting too slowly in resolving the issue.

Najib in fact, was criticised for remaining “elegantly silent” in the matter.

What was most disappointing, Zaid pointed out tonight, was how political leaders continued to stay non-commital, refusing to acknowledge the severity and the impact of such open displays of intolerance.

“Our leaders have stayed totally impotent in the face of such an onslaught. In fact now, the divisive politics of the BN are detrimental to the long-term goals of the nation. It is also detrimental to BN’s own wellbeing,” he said.

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