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It is Christmas time and yet many don’t feel much joy and peace in the air of Kuala Lumpur given recent national developments, sighs Ngu Ik Tien.

The controversial National Security Council Bill 2015 has just been passed in the Senate.

A few days ago, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, we saw a dispute between a trader and his customer turn into a brawl which has been painted by certain politicians as racial bullying.

Aliran’s response to recent developments included launching a petition on 4 December 2015 urging Malaysians to call on Senators of the Dewan Negara to reject the National Security Bill 2015. So far, it has received over 2,500 online supporters.

Unfortunately, the voices of civil society have not been heeded as senators passed the bill without any amendments. This bill gives enormous power to the prime minister in “suspending” democratic institutions such as parliament in the name of preserving national security.

A TA article expresses concern that Malaysia may become a military government with the passing of the bill.

Together with other civil society organisations, Aliran condemned the threat of sexual assault made against G25 spokeperson Noor Farida Ariffin following her statement on khalwat laws during a G25 press conference. Aliran was disappointed that instead of taking action against the person who had threatened her, the police began probing Noor Farida under the Sedition Act.

Meanwhile, Aliran also endorsed a press statement issued by Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia on Brunei criminalising public celebrations of Christmas and non-Muslim festivals. Apparently, the trend of religious intolerance is gaining momentum not only in Malaysia but also in our neighbouring country.

Another alarming sign is a fracas that occurred in a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur which was deliberated painted by some as a communal clash between ethnic Chinese and Malays. A group of people took the law into their hands and targeted shops inside the mall while some made provocative racist remarks presumably with an intention to incite hatred. Among them was one of those who had led the Red Shirts rally and was also involved in a riot at the Low Yat Plaza.

Francis Loh, the president of Aliran, has written an interesting piece on Malay politics, which lists out the Malay groups that serve in various political parties and non-governmental organisations, and a spectrum of their political orientations. The article discusses the intra-Umno conflicts and the disquiet of NGOs such as Perkasa and Isma, which he believes reflects only half of the picture of the ethno-religious relations in Malaysia.

The other half of the picture, in his view, is represented by the Malay intellectuals in Amanah, and those in Ikram, the DAP and G25 who have made great efforts to put forward a new discourse. While the ethnic-religious divisions are seemingly deepening, he reminds us that ethnic boundaries have frequently been crossed by some civil society groups, Bersih 4 and Pakatan Harapan.

Ngu Ik Tien
Aliran newsletter co-editor
24 December 2015

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