MCA calls for consultative body on religious issues

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KUALA LUMPUR: Calling on the national leadership to provide direction, the MCA has suggested that a consultative committee be established to resolve religious issues dividing the nation.

MCA Religious Harmony Bureau Chairman Ti Lian Ker said in a statement that leaders such as former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi or former Inspector-General of Police Haniff Omar should be roped in to chair these rounds of consultation.

“This consultative committee, by whatever name, must be formed immediately towards finding and drafting a document to pave the way forward out of the present political doldrums whereby all interests are taken care of and all fears and anxieties overcome,” he said.

He cited the example of the setting up of the National Economic Consultative Council by former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, where all interests and all races were represented.

He said this took place at a time when there was anxiety over and pressure for the New Economic Policy that was supposed to end in 1990, to continue. This diffused tensions and a potentially racially charged economic issue was settled by way of consensus building.

Saying the country was at a crossroads, Ti added that the recent “unprecedented” jumping of queue of PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang’s Private Members Bill proposed by minister Azalina Othman Said had rattled the very foundation of the Barisan Nasional that had always taken pride in the practice of consensus building.

Ti said never, since the May 13, 1969 riots, was there a “dire need for a central power or authority to ease racial religious tempers and to provide national solutions or directions towards continued nation building.”

He added: “There comes a time when leaders must provide the answers or chart the way forward. It is my suggestion that the country’s leader must take stock and show leadership.”

Ti said although the pros and cons regarding hudud and related matters had been put forth meticulously and rationally, the fears, apprehensions and suspicions that had touched the raw nerves of the minorities must be given due consideration and concern and not swept aside like before.

He said that the rule of the majority must go hand in hand with due respect for the minorities.

“For the very first time in Barisan Nasional history, Umno has been taken to task publicly not by one component party but practically all components in the ruling BN. A political accord was struck between Umno and PAS but a political discord was also created from within the BN.”

He said although the prime minister had attempted to appease component parties by saying that Hadi’s shariah bill was not about hudud, many were not convinced.