The parliamentary roundtable started by the parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang. He said that the country is a secular state with Islam as an official religion but it is not an Islamic State. During the period of the first 3 prime ministers, Malaysia's position and identity is quite clear. However, the last two prime ministers had tried to change the spirit of federal constitution unconstitutionally.
Lawyer Malik Imtiaz lamented at the weak democratic structure in Malaysia. He said that as a weak democracy the separation of power between the judiciary, legislature and executive is blurred. He argues that the executive has usurped the power of the legislature through the overwhelming majority enjoyed by the ruling party.
He said that in Malaysia there is an evident of a rule by decree. Statements made by the nation's political leaders are accepted as binding laws. Hence, the announcement made by the deputy prime minister Najib Razak that Malaysia is an Islamic State should be taken seriously. He said that the pronouncement is not merely a label.
It is obvious that after 1999, the Islamisation process has created a confusion between the civil courts and the syariah courts. This did not happen prior to 1999. He warned that a civil service which is made of predominantly a single community professing a single religion is going to make the announcement a reality.
Dr Farish Noor warned that post colonial states are facing a crisis because the ruling elites there are mixing politics with race, religion and language to satisfy their sectarian needs. He quoted examples of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Middle East states and some African countries.
He said that what we are seeing in Malaysia today is the exerting of a sectarian interest while ignoring the interests of the larger society. He argues that secularism does not focus on the exclusion of a particular religion alone but also other communities and communal principles. It means that the rights to participate in the economy, political and social sphere lies on the universal rights of an individual.
Honey Tan commented that most of religious freedom cases involved women i.e. Lina Joy, Revathi, Kamariah etc. The politicising of Islam has affected the protection of women's rights against domestic violence. Malaysia has signed CEDAW convention but the country is still unsure about the international legislation and has been domesticated because of the position of syariah on the rights of women. She wanted the government to implement legislations which promote gender equality and not allow religion to colour their senses.
Other speakers include Lim Guan Eng, Andrew Khoo of Bar Council, Dr Nasir, Honey Tan of Awam and Dr Hacharan Singh. The roundtable attracted mostly NGOs, opposition parliamentarians and the press.