Ambiga: Make Najib’s UN speech basis for building Malaysia

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GEORGE TOWN: Impressed with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s recent speech at the United Nations, which distanced Malaysia from discrimination and subjugation, and promoted inclusive politics and coexistence of faiths, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan now wants it to be used as a basis for nation building at home.

The former Bar Council president and now the patron of the people’s movement, Negara-ku, said the prime minister had managed to capture the strength of the nation in the speech delivered on Sept 26.

“We must use this. We must say to all the people who are trying to divide us, this is what the prime minister of this country has said, and this is what we should do,” Ambiga said, in a veiled reference to right-wing groups inflaming racial issues in Malaysia.

She said four particular paragraphs — marked as paragraphs 23 to 26 in his official transcript — should be adopted verbatim to guide programmes and policies in Malaysia.

Commending Najib for highlighing them in the international arena, Ambiga invited the prime minister to make the very same delivery on home soil. In the speech at the 69th UN General Assembly in New York, Najib said: “We must break the cycle where one group gains power only to wield it against the other. Where marginalisation leads to radicalisation, as people lose confidence in the state’s ability to provide both security and coexistence.

“Individuals and ethnic and religious groups need to feel they have a stake in a nation’s success, not its failure. So we should commit to more inclusive politics. This is difficult work; it demands pragmatism and compromise. And it must come from within.

“Malaysia stands ready to share its experience of marginalising extremism; maintaining a multi-religious country, where different faiths coexist and prosper; and showing that Islam can not only succeed, but drive progress and development in a pluralistic society.

“Like all nations, we have had our growing pains. Stability is never permanent; it must be actively maintained. But in Malaysia, there are streets in which mosques, temples and churches stand side by side. Ours is a society in which religions may differ, but do so in peace in the knowledge that we are all citizens of one nation.”

During a fundraising for human rights NGO Aliran in George Town on Saturday night, Ambiga said what was needed was for Najib to say the exact same words in Malaysia. The call sparked applause from the crowd of more than 500.

“I only regret the prime minister will not make a speech like this in Malaysia,” she said. “Because that’s all we need. He has captured the strength of this nation. He knows, in other words, exactly what is needed in this nation.

“They all know,” added the former co-chair of electoral reform group Bersih 2.0, referring to politicians in Putrajaya.

Ambiga said the National Unity Consultative Council should come up with a blueprint for an anti-discrimination programme based on UN guidelines for children in schools.

She said this in the light of recent allegations by Umno and hard-line Malay leaders that Chinese schools were impeding racial harmony.

“Why don’t we introduce this programme in every school?” she asked.

“I think we should start developing an anti-discrimination policy in this country.”

Ambiga said the UN has guidelines for programmes among pupils in schools “to reverse the effects of the brainwashing and discrimination”. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 13, 2014.