FOREIGN Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said last night that Malaysia will be writing to officially inform India of its decision not to send fugitive preacher Zakir Naik to his country of birth.
The letter is in response to a request by his Indian counterpart for something in black and white on this issue. Perfectly understandable request by New Delhi given that some of the reasons Putrajaya has given for protecting Zakir over the past few months have ranged from the condescending to the ridiculous.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Putrajaya is concerned that the controversial preacher – who was given permanent residence status here when Najib Razak was PM – won’t get a fair trial in India. He faces a clutch of charges related to money-laundering offences.
Dr Mahathir has also said that Malaysia is in a quandary over deporting Zakir. The reason: no country wants to have him. One wonders why.
Yes, for a while now, we have heard bits and pieces of reasons Malaysia won’t deport Zakir to India. But we have never been given the official reason.
India has requested for an official reason for Malaysia rejecting its extradition request for a number of seasons. Chief among them is to calibrate a response in proportion to what Malaysia says. This response could result in trade sanctions or perhaps even a downgrading of relations.
We say that just as New Delhi deserves an official reason for Zakir’s continued protection by Malaysia, so do Malaysians.
He allegedly insulted Chinese Malaysians and Indian Malaysian at a gathering in Kota Baru and as a result, there has been a clear desire on the part of citizens of this country to have him deported.
The vast majority of these Malaysians voted for Pakatan Harapan at GE14 and surely the least they should expect from the people they put in power in some honesty and clarity on the Zakir issue.
Because like India, only after Malaysians have read and dissected the official reason/reasons Malaysia refuses to extradite Zakir to India can we measure our response to the PH government.
So how about it, Saifuddin?
How about informing Malaysians officially on why the government will not deport Zakir to India?
The absence of an official explanation will only further alienate a substantial segment of the people who have more of a claim to Malaysia than Zakir will ever have.
The absence of an official explanation will only prompt many to act on rumour and innuendo, and the end result could be a large swathe of the PH vote bank giving the ballot box a miss at by-elections and GE15 – a development that will be a death knell for the pact.
So how about it, Saifuddin?
Let Malaysians know why a controversial and incendiary figure detested by many Malaysians will not be deported?
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT