Sabah parties see red over mufti’s ‘Tanah Melayu’ remark

A woman walks past a giant Jalur Gemilang in Seremban ahead of this year’s Merdeka Day celebrations. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Several Sabah parties have taken Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin to task for his recent comment that Malaysia is “for the Malays”, saying the country belonged to all Malaysians at the time of its formation on Sept 16, 1963.

Parti Bersatu Sabah secretary-general Jahid Jahim said Asri may have forgotten that Malaysia also includes Sabah and Sarawak, where the majority of the population is not Malay.

The Tamparuli assemblyman added that Malaysia is a democratic country, the administration of which depends on adherence to the Federal Constitution and the Rukun Negara.

“The rights of everyone should be respected, particularly those of Sabah and Sarawak which were agreed on when Malaysia was formed,” he told FMT.

Jahid Jahim.

Asri previously defended his remarks on preserving the Malays’ cultural and political dominance, suggesting that there is now a free-for-all climate in Malaysia which only a strongman like Saddam Hussein can end.

He also stood by his statement that Malaysia belongs to the Malays, and rejected accusations that non-Malays have been unfairly treated.

He said Malaysia’s national identity is Malay, and that the Malays are “land owners” of the country who must be respected.

Jahid attributed this perception to a lack of understanding on the formation of Malaysia, which he said had been relegated to a chapter comprising only a few pages in history textbooks.

“That is why I have repeatedly urged the education ministry to include more facts on how Malaysia came to be in the school syllabus.

“This is so that everyone can honour and respect our (the Borneo states’) special status,” he said.

Japiril Suhaimin.

Sabah Progressive Party deputy president Japiril Suhaimin meanwhile said Asri’s remarks are uncalled for since Sabah and Sarawak are equal partners with the peninsula.

He added that the mufti’s statements do not help in building national unity and integration.

“Anybody making such statements has total disregard for the spirit of the formation of Malaysia.

“As someone from the Dusun ethnic group from Sabah, where would the Kadazandusun Murut be placed if Malaysia was for Malays only?

“The Malays did not exist in Sabah or Sarawak before Malaysia was formed, so Asri’s claim is ignorant and arrogant,” he said, adding that the mufti appeared to have selectively forgotten both states by calling Malaysia “Tanah Melayu”.

Lee Kuok Tiung.

Political analyst Lee Kuok Tiung said that in making the comments, Asri had ignored the pluralistic nature of Malaysia’s society.

Adding that such remarks should not have come so close to Merdeka, he said this month should be about cherishing the unique character of “Bangsa Malaysia”, which is multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious.

“This is the beauty of our society.”