Former Wisma Putra head honcho Ahmad Kamil Jaafar has vowed that the ‘Eminent Malays statement’ signed by him and 24 others will not be a flash in the pan.
"We will continue to speak up and this (statement) will not be the end of us," Ahmad Kamil told Malaysiakini.
He said he signed the statement, despite having served in the civil service for many decades, as he felt something must be done to get moderate Malays to stand up to the extremists who are destroying the country’s multiethnic and multireligious make-up.
Ahmad Kamil, 77, was a diplomat for 34 years before his retirement as secretary-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Until recently, he was special envoy to the prime minister.
"All the issues (mentioned in the statement) have been welling up in the society and I was feeling concerned...
"Some of them (in the government) are going overboard and they are talking of arresting the lot (those who questioned the extremists).
"We (the 25 of us) talked to one another and we wanted to take some kind of action that may influence other moderate Malays... I also want to see everyone come back to the country," Ahmad Kamil (right) said.
He was referring to many of his peers who have left Malaysia due to growing intolerance to racial and religious diversity in the county.
The former top diplomat said the ‘25 Eminent Malays’ statement was meant to jolt the government and Malay leaders ruling the country into taking action.
Last Monday, the group of 25 prominent Malays, in a rare action, called on Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his government toshow leadership in the face of dogmatic voices, such as those of right-wing groups Isma and Perkasa, which have been growing in vituperation over the past few years.
The group included former civil servants, judges, ambassadors and scholars. Among those who inked the statement are former Health Ministry director-general Dr Ismail Merican (left), former Court of Appeal judge Shaik Daud Md Ismail and former ambassador Noor Farida Ariffin.
Ahmad Kamil said there were many more prominent Malays who wanted to sign the statement but the group decided that the statement should appear as soon as possible.
He said everything happened within weeks - from composing the statement to publicising it.
A 'Talibanised' Malaysia
When asked why the statement focused mostly on Malays and Islam, Ahmad Kamil cited the case of the transgenders who challenged the Islamic authorities for illegal arrests and won.
Last month, the Court of Appeal in a landmark ruling declared invalid Negeri Sembilan’s Syariah Criminal (Negeri Sembilan) Enactment 1992, whichcriminalises Muslim transgenders for cross-dressing.
Ahmad Kamil asked why the government insisted on appealing against that acquittal.
"Transgenders are also God's creation, and we have to protect God's creation in whatever form," he said.
Although many of the younger generation of Malaysians may not know the 25 signatories, despite most of them once being top civil servants, Ahmad Kamil said they were doing it for their grandchildren.
"I do not want my grandchildren to live in a Talibanised country.
"I come from a background of people of different races and we (back then) never questioned who you are. Today, there are so many discordant and divisive issues.
"It is time all of us got up from sitting on our backsides," said Ahmad Kamil, who rubbished claims by some quarters that the 25 signatories were playing partisan politics.