Why was controversial Indian preacher given PR status while other deserving individuals are denied the same privilege?
By Dr Jacob George
I refer to Free Malaysia Today’s article “Zakir Naik has Malaysian PR, says home minister”.
In the past, I raised several pertinent issues on international law and diplomacy in this matter.
As such, I will now focus on the domestic backlash expected from this confirmation, and action, if not resolved, from various demographics prior to the impending GE14.
If someone had thought Zahid’s confirmation would cause “shock and awe” that an individual now wanted by India, Interpol and banned in several other countries, notably Canada, the United Kingdom, and Bangladesh, was granted Malaysian permanent residence status – it did not!
I am certain that well-connected Malaysians and international diplomats were fully aware of the circumstances that led to it and the current backlash and embarrassment it is causing the nation, which has yet to clear allegations of violating UN sanctions on North Korea by politically connected individuals and companies.
I am advised that there are UN agencies and other state departments currently looking at this.
By the manner in which the deputy prime minister and home minister worded his reply on this controversial individual, it is quite clear that neither he nor his predecessor were responsible for this “inexplicable and strange decision” that goes against all norms, diplomatic reasoning, fair play and ethical considerations, and its fallout and impact on a nation still reeling from other issues and controversies.
Worse, this privilege was not given to others in Malaysia, among them professional wives of locals, locals born and bred but having technical problems, Malaysians born to locals and foreigners post-divorce or estrangement, and those who have been part and parcel of the nation from independence or others whose offspring are still denied documents.
It broke my heart and brought a tear, when I read of an individual sharing that his mum was born in Labu, Negeri Sembilan 86 years ago to Sri Lankan parents, and that his grandfather was in service with the British as a civil servant.
Despite his grandmother having a baptism certificate issued a month from her birth by a church in Labu, though torn and tattered, she was refused this privilege by the authorities and little Napoleons.
His grandmother, he reiterates, speaks and dresses like a Malay.
And today, 86 years old, she is still stateless!
She has eight Malaysian children, umpteen grandchildren comprising Indians, Malays and other mixed races, and Malay and Indian great-grandchildren.
Sounds perfectly 1Malaysia to me, which should be enough!
But sadly, no.
As Malaysia’s and Asean/Apec’s lead consumerist, I have come across many other cases of such anomalies and certainly gross injustice pertaining to undocumented Malaysians and the footprints of irresponsible little Napoleons.
Inexplicably, the decision to give PR status to this controversial individual with dark clouds over his head, and against such a backdrop, raises many questions and opens old wounds among Malaysians.
International decorum and guidelines are strict when one is given a permanent residence privilege.
One is expected not to attract or indulge in controversy which puts the state that has given the PR in a bad light.
There are comprehensive background checks to be made internationally. Were these done?
Like in other countries, here in Malaysia, his religious talks have upset the multiracial and multi-religious fabric of the country.
There are allegations that even his recent religious frolic and adventure in Indonesia raised alarm in Jakarta, within the region, and in Malaysia.
And now, his media outburst against India from Malaysia is unbecoming of him.
Instead of making a physical appearance to address the allegations and charges against him in India, Zakir Naik is using the Malaysian media, urging the Indian government to take up any case against him in an international court, or even in Malaysia.
He is also making derogatory remarks about India and Muslims there, which are a blatant lie!
This is unfortunate, and in international law, firing salvos against the Indian government or others from Malaysia obviously pits, in this case, Putrajaya against New Delhi.
This is a rather mischievous thing to do, trying to use local sentiments to beef up his defence, avoid accountability and create bilateral issues between two independent countries and trade partners.
We were very fortunate that India’s fair and free media were advised not to raise this issue during our beloved prime minister’s visit to India, and they kept to the script as not to embarrass a visiting dignitary.
We may not be so lucky next time, as this individual continues to fire salvos and make wilful, exaggerated claims and accusations against the Indian government and others, as if there is an international conspiracy against him and Islam.
There are no two ways about this.
The Malaysian government has to decide whether this one individual is more important to the rights, interests and needs of this nation, than Malaysians and others who are born, bred, living and contributing to the nation’s needs.
Our politicians should be made accountable, too.
We cannot talk with a forked tongue, making public policy based on short-term political expediency!
We cannot indulge in fake news for the local consumption, thinking rather stupidly that there are no international readers monitoring the script.
Whether we like it or not, there is a larger international audience watching and assessing each of our policy deliberations.
The last thing we need is confirmation that Malaysia is now a safe haven, a rest and recreational destination, or a hideaway for those directly, indirectly or by behaviour, international terrorists or their financiers and sympathisers.
We respect our leaders and pray that they do the right thing for Malaysia and Malaysians.
Dr Jacob George is an FMT reader.
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