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Election Watch

Encourage freedom of expression

Date: 12 March 2014
Source: The Star

Encourage freedom of expression

THE Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has encouraged the “silent majority” to speak up. His advice is timely, right and proper.

For too long, far too many Malaysians have been expressing extreme thoughts and ideas and have gotten away with spreading alarm and disunity by fanning racial hatred and religious bigotry.

In fact, in the national unity dialogues that are currently being held all over the country, I have, as a moderator of some of these NUCC Town Hall meetings, been struck by the spontaneous expressions of protest by Malaysians at the grassroots level.

They often blame some irresponsible political and religious leaders for their extremist remarks that undermine national unity and

their keen participation in the NUCC dialogues.

They thus send us all a powerful message, that extremist comments and actions should not be tolerated and indeed must be stopped.

If the police find it difficult to throw the book at these extremists, then the moderate and true Malaysians who make up the silent majority must counter extremism of all kinds from all quarters.

There has to be a People’s Movement Against Extremists and all forms of extremism.

Hence, it is laudable and indeed encouraging that lately a few, and sadly too few, Malay and Muslim professionals have come out boldly to take on the extremist fringe and to put the record straight, to enhance racial and religious harmony and national unity in our country.

Thus, prominent non-political Malay leaders like Zainah Anwar in “Power to us the people” (The Star, March 2), and Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Kassim and Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang in “The need for freedom of expression” (The Star, March 10) have raised serious questions as to whether we have adequate freedom of speech.

They have also boldly stressed the need for the Government to encourage more freedom of expression to “neutralise” the influence of political and religious extremists.

In regard to racial and religious issues that are raised by extremist Malays and Muslims, it is mainly the Malays, who represent the majority race/religion in our country, that can effectively counter Malay/Muslim extremists, without undue misunderstanding and over-sensitivity.

Given the current regrettable state of our racial and religious relations, each race and religious group, including non-Malays, can and should properly and productively comment on and even condemn the extremists, within their own communal groups.

Hence, all true Malaysians must take the challenge to counter

racial and religious extremism, within their own communal groups.

The extremists have to be exposed and isolated, named and shamed, for Malaysia to progress in peace and prosperity, for our present and especially our future well-being and sustainability.

May God bless our beloved Malaysia.

TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM

Chairman, Asli Centre of Public

Policy Studies

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