Malaysia `not an Islamic State’, say ethnic Indians

April 16th, 2008 - 2:12 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, April 16 (IANS) Comments by the royal chief of the Kelantan state and by its chief executive have brought forth contradictions from leaders of Malaysia’s ethnic Indian and Chinese minorities. Opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP)’s Indian origin chairman Karpal Singh criticised the Tengku Mahkota, the royal constitutional head of Kelantan state, Tengku Mohammad Faris Petra Sultan Ismail Petra for making “political statements” that were “on the verge of sedition”, The Sun daily said Wednesday.

“The Tengku Mahkota should have known better than to issue statements with a political flavour,” said Karpal Singh, a prominent lawyer-lawmaker.

“Royalty in the country must stay apolitical. Conventionally, royalty is required to do so,” he said, adding “the tone of the statements of the Tengku Mahkota is an affront to the other races in the country.”

The Tengku Makhota said last Saturday that the special rights and privileges of the majority Malays were not to be questioned and that it was inappropriate for other races to demand equal privileges just because they gained Malaysian citizenship.

Tengku Mohammad Faris claimed the special rights and privileges of the Malays as a “quid pro quo” (exchange) for providing Malaysian citizenship to 2.7 million people of other races who joined the Malay Federation.

Describing the Tengku Mahakota’s comment as “unwarranted”, Karpal Singh said citizenship itself granted the other races the standing to claim equal rights and privileges.

“The other races in the country acquired citizenship after Merdeka (freedom), and are, therefore entitled to enjoy the rights and privileges which flow from that citizenship,” said Karpal Singh.

Ethnic Indians form eight percent of Malaysia’s population while the Chinese settlers are 33 percent.

Kelantan came under the opposition front’s rule last month and has as its chief executive the leader and spiritual leader of the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat.

He said he was convinced that the opposition alliance “will eventually accept the Islamic state ideology”, in an interview with Sin Chew Daily.

The constitutional head’s comments also drew comments from the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) that is part of the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional.

MCA President Ong Ka Ting said his party “will not accept an Islamic State as it is contrary to the Federal Constitution”.

PAS’s agenda has been to usher in an Islamic state in Malaysia. However, it forged an electoral alliance with other opposition parties and performed well in last month’s elections.

It is now part of the opposition front, Pakatan Rakyat, triggering a debate whether it still believed in having an Islamic State.

MCA chief said statements by PAS leaders that they want to create an Islamic state “indicates that PAS’ ambitious goals have been revealed. There is no doubt that they intend to establish an Islamic state for Malaysia.”

Ong opposed the Kelantan head of the state’s contention citing the Constitution.

“Article 153 of the Federal Constitution states the special position of the Malays and the natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak. However, this should be read alongside with Article 153(7) which also reads that ‘Nothing in this Article shall operate to deprive or authorise the deprivation of any person of any right, privilege’.”

“The statement by Tengku is inconsistent with the Barisan Nasional’s stand on racial unity which stands for fair and equal partnership,” said Ong.

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