DATUK Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s statement regarding the Bar Council’s on-line poll on the use of the word “Allah”, as reported in the media on 23 March 2009, makes for disappointing reading in our country’s continuing democratic discourse.
We are confident that Malaysians will rise above mere polemics and will not see the poll as inciting disaffection. We are mature and responsible citizens who are capable of resolving any differences relating to race or religion through rational and constructive dialogue, with the focus on common values and respect for one another.
The Bar Council is committed to embarking on dialogues with diverse stakeholders including the government, Muslim non-governmental organisations and individuals to engage in discourse on issues of mutual concern.
We urge the minister to lend his full support to the responsible exercise of the right of freedom of expression, which is an indivisible right, and part and parcel of our nation’s system of democracy.
We look to our elected leaders for guidance, and these leaders have a duty to promote values that foster peace and national unity rather than pandering to partisan self-interest and parochial emotive fervour, which can themselves create disaffection.
The Bar Council remains committed to the promotion and protection of full, free and informed debate on the basic rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in our Federal Constitution.
We shall continue with our public duty to educate our fellow citizens on the various issues and the different perspectives, so that all of us may benefit from a more complete comprehension of the diverse views and opinion.
We strongly believe that the unique multiracial and multireligious make-up of our country is a strength that must be harnessed for the good of our people.
We call on others to do the same, constructively and peaceably. Vocal might is never right, nor is the act of misrepresenting, intimidating or silencing those who do not share one’s viewpoint.
25 March 2009