Human rights lawyer Andrew Khoo says one of the reasons as to why the Court of Appeal removed the Federal Territory Islamic Council (MAIWP) from Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB)’s legal action over the church’s right to use the word “Allah” in its religious publications, is clear due to the nature of the confiscation of the religious books in question.
“The decision that is being challenged is the decision of the customs and not the religious authorities. Judicial review is an application to challenge an administrative decision of a decision making body.
“So the decision maker here is some customs official and not the Islamic authorities. The religious body has no jurisdiction over this matter,” says Khoo.
The New Straits Times reported yesterday that a three-man bench chaired by Datuk Hamid Sultan Abu Backer today allowed SIB’s appeal against MAIWP’s entry into the church’s judicial review application.
“Previously on Feb 23, the High Court here allowed MAIWP to become a co-respondent alongside the home ministry and the government, in the judicial review bid by SIB and its president, Reverend Datuk Jerry W.A. Dusing.
“MAIWP’s counsel, Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, who confirmed the Court of Appeal’s decision when contacted, said that the bench ruled that the ministry and government were already sufficiently represented by the Attorney-General’s Chambers, who is the guardian of public interest.
“Haniff said the bench ruled that MAIWP did not show that it had direct interest in the SIB matter, as it has no rights over non-Muslims.
“”However, MAIWP was allowed to be amicus curiae,” said Haniff, explaining that this means the religious authority could be present during proceedings to assist the High Court in queries over the case,” reported NST.
The Customs Department in August 2007 confiscated Christian books imported by SIB from Indonesia at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang, Selangor.
SIB and its president Reverend Datuk Jerry W.A Dusing @ Jerry W. Patel had then filed a judicial review to challenge the Customs Department’s decision to seize its religious books containing the word “Allah”.
The books were later returned to SIB on January 25 the following year but the church and Dusing sought the permission of the Court of Appeal to initiate a judicial review.
This was to seek a declaration to state that they have the constitutional right to usage of “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia translations of the Bible, and in all other pertaining religious publications and materials.
Khoo further explains that the ownership of the book is owned by a corporate body (SIB), not by an individual and since corporate bodies do not profess any religion, how should the Islamic authority have jurisdiction over this matter?
“It’s not their decision and it is not ‘a person’ that comes within that purview,” he adds.
Khoo further elaborates that while it may be about religious books, this is not a question of imposing Islamic laws.
“This is about books – whether or not they are prohibited by secular law.
“Basically these are the reasons they could have decided on why Islamic authorities should not be a party to the decision.
“It is not whether it is good or not good for SIB, but in a sense that the court does not need to deal with an additional party and the court does not need to take time to listen to the arguments on behalf of the Islamic authorities.
“It clarifies the issue, one of whether or not the customs acted within or outside the limits of their power,” says Khoo.
SIB’s judicial review application would come up for case management at the High Court on October 10.
Soo Wern Jun@The Heat Malaysia Online