First, lets get definitions out of the way.
The freedictionary explains the phrase “THIRD FORCE” to mean, amongst others, “one or more nations, political parties, or other organizations occupying an intermediate position between two other opposed forces”.
Could we expand this to allow for individuals?
Or just 1?
Seriously, I’ve never needed numbers behind me to do what I believed to be right.
One is not enough to constitute a force?
Ok, then let me tell you about a motley crew of 29 individuals who were not happy with what was about to become law in Parliament, and decided they were not going to just sit around and do nothing.
In September, 2000, it was announced in the media that a Restoration of Faith Bill was to be tabled in Parliament. A similar law had previously been passed in June of that same year in the Perlis state assembly. If this bill became law, it would give oppressive powers to the Islamic religious authorities to ‘deal’ with Muslims whose faiths and practises were not on all fours with the mainstream Ahlul Sunnah Wal Jamaah. This included detaining an individual in a rehabilitation centre for up to 1 year, declaring such a person an apostate, dissolving any pre-existing marriage, excluding such a person from custody of children of any such marriage, and forfeiture of property.
On 25th September, that year, 29 individuals,
myself included, took a written memorandum of complaint to SUHAKAM and then convened a press conference to alert that if the bill became law, it would infringe on the rights of Muslims guaranteed under the constitution. Malaysiakini reported this HERE.
“The Sept 25 memo caught the government’s attention. Within that same week in September, the Barisan Nasional government through the de facto law minister Rais Yatim announced that the government would not pass the rehabilitation law for the federal territories “until further study”.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was subsequently reported as saying that the rehabilitation law would not be passed and that a similar law in Perlis would not be enforced”, as reported by Malaysiakini HERE.
In another Malaysiakini report, minister Rais was reported to have said that “the proposed ‘apostasy’ bill will be studied in depth” and that “the controversial bill is still not ready to be tabled to the parliament”.
I am pleased to say that the bill has never since been brought before Parliament again for deliberation.
29 individuals, came together, and stopped the passage of a most draconian piece of proposed legislation from becoming law.
What drove them to do it?
Their stated reason : “There is only one motivation to present this complaint. It is a constitutional right, nothing else, that motivated us. We – 29 Malaysians – are proud to take a step to protect our rights.”
They did not just sign a petition and then remain anonymous.
They put themselves out in the ‘spotlight’, and risked retaliation from the religious authorities.
Was this a 3rd Force of sorts?
What can we take from this, as we witness this nation being destroyed by a corrupt regime and watched from the sidelines a fractured and seemingly dysfunctional opposition, fighting amongst themselves?