PM’s decision not to table Hadi’s bill a big vote for moderation

30 Mar 2017 / 21:50 H.

    PRIME MINISTER Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the government have to be congratulated for not tabling PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang's bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act or RUU355.
    It is to the prime minister's, as well as the government's and the opposition's, credit that Barisan Nasional has accepted the harmonious consensus of the BN component parties, as well as the strong views of some opposition parties and many Malaysians, throughout Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.
    The government's decision is a big vote for wasatiyah (moderation) and strengthens domestic and foreign confidence that this government can "walk the talk".
    However, I must confess that I, like many Muslims and non-Muslims, was uncertain as to how the government would move forward on this sensitive and fundamental issue.
    Now we hope that the speaker will continue to wisely use his characteristic sound judgment, to follow the government's and opposition's broad consensus and reflect the noble spirit of wasatiyah, by rejecting any notion to vote on Hadi's bill.
    Now we can sigh in relief and be more confident that the government will also pursue the principles of wasatiyah more effectively than before.
    Here again there has been much doubt as to how keen the government has been in implementing wasatiyah fully.
    For the sake of feedback to government, and not being negative in any way, I have to say that there has been considerable doubt over whether the government really meant what it said about actively promoting wasatiyah.
    Students would ask – where is the moderation when some students get scholarships and others who do better all round, fail to win scholarships.
    Others ask why they don't get promoted faster in the civil service when less qualified or less competent colleagues streak past them.
    Then there are the licences, land alienation and permits, approved permits and government contractors, that are awarded to poor performers and public funds often wasted.
    Wasatiyah can only be properly implemented when government policies are fair to all. The race and religious elements must be carefully and steadily phased out over a set period but not too long.
    All policies should be based on basic needs and merit and fairness and moderation.
    Regardless of race and religion, all Malaysians should be given the basic needs like education, housing, security, good environment, health and transport facilities equitably.
    Wasatiyah Plan 2016-2020
    The National Wasatiyah Policy was launched in the Wasatiyah 5-Year Plan on Oct 21 last year. However we have not seen much that has been publicly promoted and implemented so far.
    Hence I would propose that the Wasatiyah Plan should be publicised more intensely and widely. The plan and its policies have to be discussed in a bottom-up fashion and not top down, for the wasatiyah policies to be fully supported by the people.

    Five main wasatiyah objectives
    The prime minister announced the objectives of wasatiyah in Parliament on Tuesday. But how do we interpret them on the ground?
    » Bolstering Malaysians' understanding of the wasatiyah approach, as a bedrock in life.
    This is basically sound, but the people need to know more details of how this is to be achieved. Teaching wasatiyah principles in schools alone is insufficient. Colleges, universities and the civil service and the private sector must be fully involved, to make wasatiyah work.
    » Resolving societal problems stemming from extremism, radicalism and integrity issues.
    To follow this principle, we have to come down harder on those who preach hatred, as proposed by the sultan of Selangor and the prime minister, in all our policies and practices, without exception.
    » Strengthening the appreciation of wasatiyah to promote a high spirit of mutual tolerance. For this we need to have concrete programmes, like encouraging open houses for festivals and visiting each others' place of worship, etc. Now, however, this has been reduced by polarisation.
    » To develop a harmonious Malaysian identity in appreciating excellent values and ethics.
    Thus, we will be more exposed to the best and the beauty of all religions and cultures. After all religions primarily promote peace and goodwill and charity with our neighbours.
    » Inculcating moderation as a way of life in all aspects, including education, economy, administration, social and politics.
    Surely, we all want quality education for our children and an economy that brings more benefits to the poor, a more efficient administration, with far less or no corruption and a more cultured society, and cleaner and more professional politicians?
    So let's reject Hadi's bill and embrace the prime minister's and the government's wasatiyah or principles of moderation in all aspects of our lives.
    Let's unite with all who believe in adopting and promoting the moderate Malaysian way of life, now and in the future.
    And let's make sure wasatiyah really works and show the world Malaysia boleh.
    Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
    Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies

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