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Why Cabinet got time to discuss Manchester United’s July visit in two consecutive meetings but no time for the last-minute cancellation of the “Building Bridges” International Islam-Christianity Inter-Faith Conference?

Media Statement      
by Lim Kit Siang  


(Parliament, Thursday) : The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is again on an international tour to preach to foreign audiences his message of inter-civilisational, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, understanding, goodwill and peace. 

Speaking two days ago at the Meiji University in Tokyo, where he was conferred an honorary doctorate, Abdullah said that dialogue between cultures and civilisations has now become another pre-condition to achieving the global goals of peace, security and prosperity. 

He said dialogue could bridge the gap and generate greater understanding between cultures and civilisations especially between the West and the world of Islam.

He said: "This dialogue is essential to expose and establish the fact that Islam is a religion which espouses universalism, not exclusivity. Islam is a religion which does not make any distinction between race or culture."

The university had specially requested Abdullah to speak on Islam and Islam Hadhari for his keynote address on "Bridging the Gap Between Cultures and Civilisations". 

It is sad and even pathetic however that the Prime Minister’s international message is being ignored locally, even by his own Cabinet. 

The Tourism Minister, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor has confirmed that the Cabinet yesterday again discussed Manchester United’s July visit to play in Malaysia – the second time the issue was raised in two consecutive weekly meetings. 

Malaysians are very concerned that the Cabinet has a very misplaced sense of priorities when it has absolutely no time at all in its last two meetings for the issue of the last-minute cancellation of the international Islam-Christianity Interfaith “Building Bridges” Conference to be chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, Humanity in Context: Christian and Muslim Perspectives” on May 7 – 11, 2007. 

Why didn’t the Cabinet take note of the grave  damage to Malaysia’s international reputation as  model of inter-religious harmony, goodwill and harmony and the credibility of the Prime Minister as moderate Muslim leader and advocate of inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue caused by  the last-minute cancellation of the Islam-Christianity Inter-faith Conference and its continuing as  an international sore point against Malaysia? 

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that one of the comments International Advisory Panel (IAP) members – many of whom are renowned academicians and industry experts - who met last week over the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) was that Malaysian students are perceived to be incurious who lack a “questioning culture” and are too passive.  “They also lack questioning skills, are not too curious and too readily accept facts told to them”. 

Are Malaysian students to be blamed for such “incurious and unquestioning culture” when this is the direct result of the national educational and political system – and such passive attitude which “too readily accept facts told to them” is best illustrated by the Cabinet at the top of the national pile. 

Why was there not a single Cabinet Minister who dared to be “questioning” enough to inquire about the last-minute cancellation of the Building Bridges Inter-faith Conference when this was the favourite theme of the Prime Minister in international forums and when the Conference had been planned for the past one year with prior and specific clearance and approval by the Prime Minister’s Department?

Abdullah had said publicly that the Building Bridges Inter-faith Conference had not been cancelled but postponed as it clashed with “some urgent matters” of the Prime Minister that coincided with the dialogue.   

What are these “urgent matters” which justified the last-minute cancellation of the Interfaith Conference? 

What are the new dates given by the Prime Minister for the “postponed” Building Bridges Conference 2007?  Or will it be “postponed indefinitely” until after the next general election, with no guarantee or certainty that the 2007 Conference would be held in Malaysia at all? 

It is sad and a national tragedy that the present Cabinet seemed determined to prove former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad right again and again that it is a “half-past six Cabinet”!


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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