Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Nancy Shukri stated in her interview with the Sunday Star (19 Jan 2014) that the proposed National Harmony Bill would not be rushed through Parliament.

The Minister’s remark is commendable and she should be complimented for her stand on the matter.

The proposed National Harmony Bill is of primary importance as it concerns peace and harmony in our multi-racial country.

A bill of such importance must be thoroughly studied and carefully formulated before it is tabled in Parliament for debate.

The Minister should rightly engage politicians from both sides of the political divide to get their feedback on the proposed bill.

The Government must also engage NGOs, religious organisations and various strata of society before tabling the Bill in Parliament.

In fact what should be done is to refer the proposed bill, when the time comes, to a Parliamentary Select Committee to scrutinize the Bill before it is tabled in Parliament.

The Parliamentary Select Committee can also provide public feedback on the proposed National Harmony Bill.

Looking at the state of our inter and intra ethnic relations there is a need to consider suitable legislation to strengthen harmony and to educate the public on ways and means to foster inter-racial understanding among the diverse races who have made Malaysia their home.

The proposed National Harmony Bill may be an instrument for such purpose.

Prior to the formulation of any new legislation there must be a proper understanding of the concept of national harmony which is not just promoting harmony between the different ethnic and religious groups but also among the different socio-economic groups and political parties.

In considering the proposed National Harmony Bill what must be borne in mind is the need to embark on relentless efforts to promote mutual respect and understanding among the different ethnic and religious groups.

Dissent and political differences among the various political parties should not be regarded as cause for disharmony as long as such differing political views and approaches do not degenerate into violence.

Accepting Islam as the official religion but recognizing the religious rights of non-Muslims as provided for in the Federal Constitution would help to strengthen harmony.

Recognition and respect of the legitimate rights of all communities in addition to responsible citizenship will also help to ensure harmony in our multi-racial nation.

If the National Harmony Act is to be introduced, it has to be fairly and justly implemented.

The implementation of the proposed law must be monitored and evaluated every five years to determine its effectiveness, relevance and usefulness.

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