We, the undersigned civil society organisations, condemn the startling declaration made by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who has vowed to fight against secularism and liberalism through the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government and the alliance with UMNO and PAS. The Prime Minister, knowing the instability of the PN government which he leads, has mischievously opted for the age-old regressive tactic of trying to retain the support of religious and racial fundamentalists by attacking the principles of secularism and liberalism in Malaysia.

The Prime Minister must be reminded of the constitutional and historical context to Malayan independence and later the formation of Malaysia through MA63 by Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and, briefly, Singapore. These respective states consented to the formation of a secular Malaysia, not an Islamic state.

The Reid Commission, which drafted the Federal Constitution, clearly acknowledged “Islam as the official religion of the federation, but it shall not impose any disability on non-Muslim nationals professing their own religions and shall not imply that the state is not a secular state.” This position was preserved time and again by our founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman, whose 30th death anniversary fell on 6 December, and the Alliance Party under his leadership.

As the current Prime Minister seems ignorant of this crucial reality, we hope this clarification may prevent him from further manipulating facts to fit his selfish political ambitions. We hope this statement will help to enlighten the Prime Minister of secularism and liberalism as well. Both schools of thought promote cooperation, encourage harmony and develop acceptance by acknowledging, respecting the differences within society. Recognising diversity and celebrating its strength is the very basis of our national motto, “Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu”.

In the Malaysian context, secularism champions the positive virtues of multi-ethnic cooperation that disallows discrimination against an individual or community due to their religious belief or ethnicity. Instead of harping and vilifying secularism, the Prime Minister needs to understand that separation of religion from politics, the protection of freedom of religion and the equal respect of all religious beliefs are the primary principles embedded in the secularism which are foundational ideas upon which our country was built.

On liberalism, we are obliged to reiterate the existence of liberal values in the preamble to our Rukun Negara. Serving as our national ideology, it says:

  • Achieving and fostering better unity amongst the society;
  • Preserving a democratic way of life;
  • Creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner;
  • Ensuring a liberal approach towards the rich and varied cultural traditions;
  • Building a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology.

His rebuttal of liberalism questions his sincerity in leading a democratic and multi-ethnic society because liberalism espouses the concept of freedom and equality as much as our Federal Constitution itself. It is ironic, hypocritical even, that the Prime Minister campaigns for the Rukun Negara yet at the same time condemns liberalism. It certainly begs the question if our so-called “prihatin Prime Minister” will discriminate some citizens over others in the name of protecting constitutionally-doubtful “privileges”? The Prime Minister must comprehend that these principles of liberalism and secularism are non-negotiable qualities needed for the progress of our nation.

Issued by the CSO Platform for Reform (Harmony Cluster)
Date: 8th December 2020

Endorsed by:

  1. ALIRAN
  2. Bersih 2.0
  3. Beyond Borders Malaysia
  4. Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (BopiMaFo)
  5. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  6. Dayak National Congress
  7. Dayak Think-Tank Association Sarawak – DTTAS
  8. Engage
  9. G25
  10. Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan (JKOAK)
  11. Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JKOASM)
  12. Justice for Sisters
  13. KitaBantuKita.Org
  14. MAJU
  15. OHMSI
  16. Our Journey
  17. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK)
  18. Persatuan Pemangkin Daya Masyarakat (ROSE)
  19. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
  20. Persatuan Warisan Sabah Sarawak Kuala Lumpur
  21. Pusat KOMAS
  22. Sabah Reform Initiative (SARI)
  23. Sarawak Association for Peoples’ Aspirations (SAPA)
  24. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  25. The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)