Malaysia Uncut

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Allow open, respectful discourse

Allow open, respectful discourse
Chin Oy Sim

The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) is disappointed that the government is reinforcing its stance on curbing discussion on ‘inter-religious’ issues, as reported by the media last Friday. WAO believes that, contrary to the statement made by Home Minister Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, it is the suppression of dialogue that will create the ‘unnecessary misunderstanding, tension and suspicion’ the minister referred to.While WAO takes note of the prime minister’s concerns which prompted his recent advice, the home minister’s statement suggests a stand by the government that would have the effect of prohibiting any and all discussions of issues of concern to civil society, regardless of efforts to ensure that these take place in a respectful and constructive manner. In this regard, we recall the supportive stance taken by our prime minister and several members of government who had, following the disruption of the Article 11 forum in Penang in May, condemned that disruption and duly acknowledged the right to discuss the matters raised at these forums with the requisite sensitivity.We urge the government to affirmatively uphold the right to freedom of speech and expression, as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution, by encouraging open and respectful discussions of issues of concern to civil society. We call on the government to safeguard and uphold the legitimate exercise of every citizen’s constitutional rights.

We take this opportunity to recall the opening preamble of our Rukunegara, which affirms Malaysia’s commitment to unity and nation-building. We appeal to the government to foster the spirit of open and respectful discourse in order to address and overcome any divisive elements.

The home minister reportedly stated that the prime minister’s statement calling for a halt to discussion forums ‘is not applicable only to non-Muslims’. WAO would like to clarify that the member organisations of the Article 11 coalition, and the representatives of those organisations, are, first and foremost, Malaysian and Malaysians, respectively.

In addition, the individuals, which include Muslims, have diverse backgrounds and are multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious.

Article 11 has requested to meet the prime minister on several occasions, most recently on Aug 3, to clarify our objectives and the focus of our activities. WAO is heartened by his expression of interest in meeting Article 11, as reported in the press, and await an official response.

WAO is a member of Article 11 coalition of Malaysian NGOs.



Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - Posted by | Commentary

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