KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 — Malaysia is ready to have liberal political parties and in fact already has them in the form of PKR, DAP and PAS, PKR leader Khalid Jaafar told a forum here today.
“I believe Malaysia is ready for a liberal party. We have been ready for more than the last 50 years,” the PKR central committee member told a crowd of over 60 people in a forum here.
“I think we have them. My party is a liberal party; DAP is a liberal party, slightly left off centre; my party is centrist, [PAS] is far right off centre; but we are still liberal because we believe in these principles,” the Institute for Policy Research executive director said.
“For party leaders that object to liberalism, they are in practice and in actual fact still working under liberal principles,” he said.
He pointed out that the country was founded on liberal principles, including the Federal Constitution, a constitutional government, free and fair elections and Parliament.
“But somewhere or rather, it was eroded from our history and even the party that brought liberalism into this country has renounced or no longer believe in it,” he said, adding that it was time to “resurrect” the principles that had been eroded through multiple laws that go against the Constitution’s spirit and through the violation of fundamental liberties.
Earlier, Khalid pointed out that the 1969 election manifesto of Barisan Nasional (BN)’s precursor Alliance was a liberal manifesto and that the racial riots the same year saw former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein drawing up the Rukun Negara when envisaging Malaysia as a liberal society here.
“If the president of the party had openly renounced the principle that has been advocated by his father, shall we still call it liberal,” he asked, referring to Umno which he said still believes nominally in the Federal Constitution and human rights with institutions such as the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.
Juli Minoves, the president of global network of liberal political parties, Liberal International, said: “I think every country is ready for a liberal party. Why wouldn’t they be?
The former foreign minister of Andorra noted that liberalism was one of the principles used in the founding of Malaysia as he said: “So it is a bit ironic that some powers that be in this country try to use liberalism as a bad word. I condemn that and I reclaim it as a good thing.”
“Liberalism is not a bad word. Liberalism, I think, is the way to the future,” he said, having said earlier that liberalism is against oppression.
But PAS member Dzulkefly Ahmad believed that “liberalism” is an ideology that is hard to sell in Malaysia, due to the negative meaning attached to the word and the unfortunate view that a liberal is willing to go against Islam.
“As long as the negative connotation of the word liberalism is invoked, it will never see the light of the day.
“When you talk about is the country ready for a liberal party, you got to ask the question whether 60 per cent or the Malay Muslims constituencies are ready to embrace that,” the secretary of civil society group Movement of New Hope told reporters when met after the forum.
“To me, it is hardselling and the buying-in process is not going to be easy,” the Islamist democrat said, citing as example how someone who drinks alcohol would be labelled a liberal, while also adding that it would be up to liberal proponents to correct the view.
The trio were present as speakers at think tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS)’s forum “Is Malaysia ready for a liberal party?” which was moderated by Ideas chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan.
In May, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that Islam and its followers are still being tested by the threat of liberalism, citing as example the case of Nur Fitri Azmeer Nordin, the Malaysian math scholar recently convicted for possession of child pornography in the UK.
“This threat will ruin the Muslim identity because the liberal ones will take the easy route in matters of religious principles, and from there, groups such as liberal Muslims, LGBT, human rightism and many more will be born,” he said in his speech at the launch of the Malaysia Wasatiyyah Institute.
The abbreviation LBGT stands for Lesbians, Bisexuals, Gays and Transgenders.
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