I WOULD like to join the voices of support from prominent corporate and political leaders for the suggestion made by Datuk Seri Nazir Razak to establish a National Consultative Council 2 (NCC2).
The aim of the NCC2 is to deliberate on the urgent issues facing the country and for all parties to come to a national consensus on the reforms needed to strengthen the country’s social and economic stability and ensure its success as a truly united nation.
Although Malaysia today is not facing an emergency like the one after the 1969 racial riots, and while the country has achieved tremendous economic success since then under the New Economic Policy, it nevertheless continues to face all kinds of challenges.
The Government must be given credit for responding to these challenges by introducing several reforms in the financial, banking, corporate, GLC and government administrative sectors, all of which have been effective in making the economy resilient to withstand external instabilities.
As a result, and despite the domestic issues surrounding 1MDB, it has been able to continue to grow, although at lower rates than before.
On the other hand, the political leadership has shelved and kept away from public discussion several issues which are important in the context of our diversity and multiculturalism.
Important structural reforms to race-based policies, creating strong independent institutions to improve the standards of governance, education and meritocracy have been deferred despite the urgency expressed in the New Economic Model.
While acknowledging that these issues are politically difficult, they cannot be swept under the carpet. They must be addressed as quickly as possible because if they are allowed to fester and get out of control, they can undo all the good achievements in the economy and turn this beautiful and happy country into a failed state.
The best forum for discussing hard economic reforms and the sensitive issues of race and religion is the NCC2, which has been proposed to be set up as a high level council like the original NCC established by Tun Abdul Razak Hussein in 1970.
One area which needs to be openly discussed in NCC2 is religion and its role in the life of the country.
Of late, there have been concerns about the administration of Islam by religious authorities who go beyond the powers conferred on them by the Malaysian Constitution to introduce fatwas and syariah laws which impinge on the constitutional rights of individuals to freedom of expression, assembly and worship.
These concerns have prompted a group of moderate Muslims called G25 to issue an open letter to the people of Malaysia.
It calls for a consultative process involving experts and scholars from different perspectives to discuss how the Quran and Hadith should be interpreted to form fatwas and syariah laws that govern the daily life of Muslims and to what extent the religious authorities should be allowed to police Muslim life.
The present practice where the interpretation of the divine teachings is dominated by conservative- minded ulama has given rise to many problems in the implementation of Islam.
Where the religious laws and regulations violate constitutional principles, they have caused alarm to the Muslim and non-Muslim population alike on the future direction of the country – whether we are all heading towards the Islamisation of the constitution and the erosion of democratic institutions of government.
As these have become common concerns among all races in Malaysia, they must be brought up for a thorough discussion in a multiracial forum like the NCC2.
I strongly believe that as time is running out and the voices of extremism are getting louder and bolder, we should form the NCC2 as quickly as possible.
I hope the Council of Rulers and the Government will give their blessings to the establishment of the NCC2 as this forum will discuss the aspirations of all citizens for reforming Malaysia into a better and stronger country in all respects – economically and socially in line with the principles of Rukun Negara which was promulgated in 1970 as the national ideology for creating national unity based on shared values among the various races.
TAN SRI MOHD SHERIFF MOHD KASSIM