KUCHING, Sept 9 — Selangau Member of Parliament Baru Bian today said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Ahmad Marzuk Shaary’s announcement that the federal government is drafting a Bill on controlling non-Muslim religions was worrying.
He said this is like a recurring nightmare that will not go away, and reliving it this close to Malaysia Day certainly gives non-Muslim Sarawakians more reason to reflect on wisdom or otherwise of the decision taken by Sarawak in 1963.
He said the statement by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) on this matter yesterday points out correctly that Article 11 (1) of the Federal Constitution gives the right to every person to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it, but subjected to clause (4) that provides that there is to be no propagation of other religions doctrine or belief to Muslims.
“Clearly, the Constitution safeguards the right of non-Muslims to practise and propagate their religions so long as that does not involve Muslims,” Baru said in a statement.
He said he strongly supports the call by the MCCBCHST that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakub should clarify the issue, as it has caused much unhappiness and anxiety for the non-Muslims in this country.
He noted that the deputy minister had remarked that the Bill was in response to a recent High Court’s decision that non-Muslims are free to use the word “Allah”.
He said the court’s decision is consistent with what “we understand to be the rights of all Malaysians under the Federal Constitution and particularly the rights of Sarawakians and Sabahans pursuant to the recommendations set out in the Inter -Governmental Committee Report 1962 and the terms of the Malaysian Agreement 1963.”
“During the talks leading to the formation of Malaysia, the non-Muslim communities of Sarawak had voiced their reservations about Islam being the religion of the Federation.
“It was finally agreed that while there was no objection to Islam being the national religion of Malaysia there should be no state religion in Sarawak, and the provisions relating to Islam in the present Constitution of Malaya should not apply to Sarawak,” he said.
He added the absence of a state religion was key to Sarawak’s agreement to join in the formation of Malaysia in 1963, a fact which all political leaders should bear in mind.
Baru said there is no official religion in Sarawak, and all are free to profess and practise the faith of their choosing.
He noted that de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had sought to downplay the issue, saying that religious matters are under state lists and such laws propagated by the federal government are not legally binding on states.
“This does not address the issue of why the government keeps attempting to violate the rights of non-Muslims which are entrenched in the Federal Constitution.
“It is not good enough to brush the matter aside by saying some politicians shoot their mouths off.
“As the de facto law minister and a Sarawakian, he has to give us a better and more reassuring response that he and all the other Sarawakian ministers and deputy ministers will speak up against the bills when they are presented at the Cabinet level.
“Better still, he should advise the deputy minister in the prime minister’s department against proceeding with it at this early stage,” Baru said.
He urged Sarawakian MPs from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) to take note that all Sarawakians are watching them closely.
He added the direction that the country has been heading is certainly not what our forefathers signed up for and Sarawakians are weary and bitterly resentful of certain Malayan politicians’ unceasing efforts to oppress the minority’s rights.
He said Malaysia is slowly but surely becoming a country where religious and racial intolerance is increasing, and religious extremism growing, adding that passing more laws to control and restrict religious freedoms only encourages religious intolerance and bigotry.
He said the latest move by the government makes a mockery of the “Malaysian Family” concept propounded by the new prime minister in his maiden speech.
“It will divide rather than unite Malaysians,” he stressed.