Hornbill Unleashed

January 4, 2014

For a better Malaysia

Filed under: Human rights,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
Tags: , , ,

May it be a good year: Fireworks exploding near the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur on New Year’s Eve. — EPASharon Ling 

With New Year messages calling for unity still fresh in our minds, let us translate them into action.

THIS has not been the best of starts to the new year.

Apart from anything else, it has been an exceptionally rainy beginning.

The sun has made only fleeting appearances over the past week or so and the wet weather shows little sign of letting up.

In an advisory issued yesterday afternoon, the Meteorological Department said thunderstorms and heavy rain would persist in Limbang, Miri, Bintulu, Sibu and Mukah divisions, which may cause strong winds and flash floods.

Its general weather forecast for January and February said Kuching, Samarahan, Sarikei and Betong could receive 700mm of rain this month alone.

Various parts of the state are currently affected by floods and six relief centres have been opened as of yesterday, sheltering more than 300 evacuees.

In spite of official pronouncements that the incessant rain is “normal”, it would be well for people to take precautions, especially those living in low-lying and flood-prone areas.

Meanwhile, Malaysians ushered in 2014 amid rumours of mass rallies to “topple the Government”, which did not happen, and protests against price hikes, which did.

It’s a bleak precursor to the challenges we face this year, not least of which is how to manage rising costs of living and making ends meet.

Another issue from last year which has carried on into the new year has to do with religious freedom and harmony.

The Court of Appeal decision in November banning Catholic weekly The Herald from using the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia publication gave rise to much controversy which has been well publicised.

Among others, there were concerns over its implications for Christians in Sarawak and Sabah who have long used “Allah” in practising their faith, even before the formation of Malaysia.

One concern in particular was about the enforcement of the ruling, given that the Federal Cabinet had assured the bumiputra Christian community in the Borneo states that it only applied to The Herald and not to them.

But church leaders and politicians warned that there could not be a “one country, two policies” approach in the matter and pointed out that the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all Malaysians.

In the light of this controversy, it’s unsurprising that Sarawakian personalities named religious harmony and unity as their top wishes for the New Year.

Yet, just two days into 2014, we have been served with a stark reminder that these wishes cannot be taken for granted and that the “Allah” issue is still far from resolved.

In the latest turn of events, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raided the Bible Society of Malaysia’s premises yesterday and seized over 300 copies of the Bahasa Malaysia Alkitab and the Iban Bible known as the Bup Kudus. Both translations contain the word “Allah”.

This action makes a mockery of the Cabinet’s assurance that the Court of Appeal ruling only applies to The Herald and does not affect Sarawakian and Sabahan Christians, many of whom use the Alkitab and Bup Kudus.

It’s regrettable to see religious authorities acting in such a manner, even more so when by right they should have no jurisdiction over the affairs of non-Muslims.

What is even more disappointing is that such doings are not even a surprise anymore.

It is high time for the Government to take firm action to recognise and affirm religious freedom as provided in the Constitution, otherwise interference and infringement of religious rights will continue.

Now, more than ever, is also time for all right-thinking Malaysians to speak up against unjust actions and unreasonable policies which will divide rather than unite us.

With New Year messages calling for unity still fresh in our minds, let us translate them into action which will result in real unity and harmony, not further divisions, among us.

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