The growing calls for moderation show that democracy in Malaysia is declining and this is troubling, says Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian.
Applauding the latest call for moderation by the ‘Group of 40’, Baru said that he fully supported their stand.
However, the fact that there was a need for another such open letter was troubling, as it was a sign that there has been no improvement since the letter sent by the eminent ‘Group of 25’ in December last year.
In that letter, the group urged the government to restore moderation in Malaysia, Baru (right) said in a statement issued in Kuching today.
“Quite the reverse, it appears, judging from the events in Taman Medan in Selangor a few days ago, that extremism and religious bigotry are alive and well in Malaysia,” he said.
Baru, who is the Ba’Kelalan assemblyperson, described the incident at Taman Medan, where a group of 50 Muslims demanded that Christians remove the cross on their church, as “bullying”.
'An odious act of extremism'
“It is an odious act of extremism, which I can only attribute to insecurity on the part of the small group of Muslims,” he said.
“What is more disturbing to me is the allegation that the group consists mainly of BN members, several of whom have been identified in photographs that have been circulated in the press and the social media.
“Extremism and religious bigotry are allowed to grow unchecked because of a weak prime minister and government, and biased and selective prosecution.
“It is distressing and repugnant when we have a prime minister who portrays a moderate image in foreign lands but allows his own party members to play on religious sentiments for political purposes.”
The only answer, if the nation wants to arrest such dangerous practices and restore the country’s harmony, he added, would be to change the federal government and elect leaders who truly believe in moderation and are prepared to act on their principles.
How would these Taman Medan Muslims feel, Baru asked, if Sarawak Muslims were treated the same way by their Christian neighbours, who outnumber Muslims in state.
“That, of course, is a purely rhetorical question because such bigotry is not practised here in Sarawak, thankfully,” he said.
Baru went on to stress that freedom of religion for Malaysians was guaranteed by Article 11 of the Federal Constitution and the only restrictions were provided in Article 11 (5), which is related to any act contrary to public order, public health and morality.
“The hanging of the cross on their church premises does not pose a threat to any of these three elements,” he added.