Zulkifli (Public domain) KUALA LUMPUR, 29 Sept 2008: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has yet to take disciplinary action against one of its members, Zulkifli Noordin, for participating in a demonstration that led to the premature ending of a Bar Council forum on religious conversion in early August 2008.
PKR vice-president Dr Syed Husin Ali, who heads the party’s disciplinary committee, told The Nut Graph that the party was still deliberating the matter.
“We’ve heard his version of what happened,” Syed Husin said, “but the matter is still not over, so I would not be comfortable commenting further.”
He was unwilling to suggest a deadline for a verdict, and cited reasons such as the approaching Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations and Zulkifli’s recent pilgrimage to Mecca for the delay.
On 9 Aug, Zulkifli, who is the Kulim-Bandar Baru member of parliament (MP), participated in a 300-strong demonstration against the Bar Council forum Conversion to Islam: Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution, Subashini and Shamala Revisited, together with others from PKR, PAS, Umno and various Muslim non-governmental organisations.
Because of the rowdy protest, police instructed for the conference to be concluded prematurely at 10am for “security reasons”.
Zulkifli, along with Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung and Umno representatives, was allowed into the building to ensure the directive was obeyed.
Later that day, two molotov cocktails were thrown into the house that formerly belonged to Bar Council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.
The protesters outside the Bar Council building on Lebuh Pasar Besar accused the lawyer’s group of challenging Islam’s position in Malaysia, even though the conference was aimed at examining how families are caught in legal conflicts if one spouse converts to Islam. The conference featured both Muslim and non-Muslim experts.
After coming under fire, Zulkifli finally emerged on 18 Aug to clarify that he was representing the Peguam Pembela Islam during the protest, and not his party. However, this has not quelled criticism that his participation and public statements about the forum contradict the Pakatan Rakyat’s commitment to pluralism and secularism.
PKR leaders said they would decide what action to take after the 26 Aug Permatang Pauh by-election in which party advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim contested and won.
Zulkifli received a show-cause letter from the party on 7 Sept after the by-election, but no further action has been announced.
And the MP, who was detained in 1998 under the Internal Security Act along with Anwar and 16 others, remains unapologetic for disrupting a peaceful forum.
On 19 Sept, he was quoted on the front page of Utusan Malaysia that he would not apologise “for leading the peaceful demonstration.”
“If the Bar Council insists on repeating the arrogance of their anti-Islam attitude,” he added, “they will surely find me there, defending and advocating Islam.”
A similarly unapologetic figure, former Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail, who had made publicly hurtful remarks about Chinese Malaysians, was suspended from his party for three years on 9 Sept.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who is also Penang chief minister, described the penalty as “mild”.
The DAP, PAS and PKR make up the Pakatan Rakyat.