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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

LIBERTY SHOULD NOT BE SEEN AS A WEAKNESS

By SSK

Today, ex-Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the reason PAS was pushing for the implementation of the Islamic Sharia law of hudud was because Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is weak.

Dr Mahathir added that PAS never played up the hudud issue when he was the Prime Minster because the government then was strong. “Maybe PAS thinks the current government needs support, because during my time we held absolute power with the two-thirds majority,” Dr Mahathir said.

That is actually not quite true because hudud was passed by the Kelantan State Assembly in 1992 and by the Terengganu State Assembly in 2001, both times when Tun Dr Mahathir was the Prime Minister. What PAS is doing now is merely following up on what was passed by the Kelantan State Assembly in 1992.
 
I would agree that the hudud issue is very divisive and threatens to divide even further an already badly divided Malaysia. Furthermore, there would be a danger that this issue, being a very sensitive religious issue, can turn extremely ugly if not properly handled. Hence it baffles me as to why politicians from both sides of the political divide would want to play up this very dangerous issue, an issue that has no winners but only losers.

Tun Dr Mahathir blames Prime Minister Najib’s weakness for this current state of affairs. I suppose by weakness this would mean by allowing people to discuss the issue even to the extent of proposing to bring this matter to Parliament as a private member’s bill.

This is a very difficult fine line that any Prime Minister who wishes to implement reforms has to walk. Najib could, of course, issue a decree that no further discussion on hudud is to be allowed and any party that does will be deemed a threat to national security and would be detained immediately. This can certainly nip the whole thing in the bud.

But then what type of a reform Prime Minister would Naijb be? This is exactly what Malaysia would have done in the past. Every time an issue is raised, which the government cannot manage, they will declare that issue as haram and then detain any one who persists in talking about the matter.

Najib’s willingness to allow public discussion on matters that would have been seen as sensitive in the past is being interpreted as his weakness. Maybe some Umno politicians see it as that, while some opposition politicians exploit this to abuse the new freedoms they are being allowed.

Malaysians need to decide whether they would like more freedom for discourse and public discussion or whether they would like to go back to the old ways of government knows best. Even some critics of the government are beginning to warm up to Najib and embrace the liberties that are being allowed under the Najib administration, even the liberty to discuss and debate sensitive issues like hudud.

Willingness to allow freedom of debate should not be seen as a weakness just as a draconian government should not be seen as a strong government. This, the politicians need to understand because this is the direction the world is heading and which Malaysia would have no choice but to also follow or else be regarded as a pariah state.

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