Thursday, May 1, 2014


30 APRIL 2014

I was extremely disappointed and appalled to read this morning Datuk Daud Abdul Rahman’s statement that Sarawak will comply with any decision or stand made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on the motion of the private bill for hudud. This statement shows his lack of understanding on the rights of Sarawak, which are protected under the Malaysia Agreement. For Sarawak, the stand is very clear. That the first of the 18 points of agreement relates to Religion points to the paramount concern our forefathers had about protecting this most precious freedom for Sarawakians. As a reminder, let me reproduce this point, which was a key finding in the Cobbold Report:

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.

The absence of a state religion was one of the pivotal factors in Sarawak agreeing to join in the formation Malaysia in 1963.  Let there be no doubt then that in accordance with the vision of our forefathers, Sarawak remained and should remain a secular state.

Daud’s response should be clear and unequivocal, that there should be no hudud law for Sarawak, in accordance with our rights. Even the former Chief Minister Taib Mahmud had consistently rejected all forms of religious extremism in Sarawak. How can we simply follow the PM’s stand when he is neither here nor there? The PM’s response should be that Malaysia is a secular country as provided in the Federal Constitution and that there is no place for the implementation of hudud law unless the Federal Constitution is amended to allow for it.

Notwithstanding the assurance given by some political leaders that hudud will not affect non-Muslims even if it is implemented, I am not convinced as recent developments in West Malaysia have been infringing on the rights of non-Muslims. One instance is the banning of Bibles in hotel rooms in Pahang by the state Islamic Council. Clearly this deprives the rights of traveller Christians to read their Holy Book. There is nothing wrong with having both the Bible and the Koran in hotel rooms and leaving it to the guest to read whichever one is applicable. This would be in accordance with the principle of religious freedom. We should give Muslims credit for their ability to hold steadfast to their religious beliefs and not be confused by the mere presence of a Bible in the room.

The misgivings of non-Muslims are fully justified, given the Allah controversy, the raid of the Bible Society and confiscation of the Al-Kitab and Bup Kudus and most recently, the kidnapping of the Hindu boy by his Muslim-convert father and the subsequent refusal of the IGP to take any action. All these are not consistent with the rhetoric of the authorities that non-Muslims will not be affected by the goings-on of the religious bodies. These incidents are signs that the rights of minorities are slowly and insidiously being eroded whilst the government pays lip service to the protection of our rights. How do they expect us to trust them?

I want to make it clear that we are not opposing hudud for the purpose of rejecting Islam nor are we claiming new rights for ourselves; we are talking about maintaining the status quo under the social contract that was agreed among the partners in the Federation of Malaysia. The decision had already been made for us and it is not for Datuk Daud, one or two state governments or even the Prime Minister to make any alterations to those rights. In case Datuk Daud is unaware, I wish to point out that besides Point 1 of the 18/20 agreement, Point 16 should be highlighted: that no amendment, modification or withdrawal of any special safeguard granted to Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak) should be made by the Central Government without the positive concurrence of the Government of the state of North Borneo/Sarawak. Therefore, the power to amend the Sarawak Constitution or the Federal Constitution insofar as the changes affect the rights of Sarawak belongs exclusively to the people of Sarawak.

This protection is reinforced in Article 161E of the Federal Constitution, which provides safeguards for the constitutional position of Sabah and Sarawak, whereby no amendment of the Constitution can be made without the concurrence of the Governor if it is to affect the constitution and jurisdiction of the High Court in Sabah and Sarawak, and the religion in the State.

These safeguards were promulgated to ensure that our rights cannot be taken from us without our consent. With such hurdles to clear, it is obvious that the framers of the Sarawak and Federal Constitutions had every intention of preserving our autonomy. Why should Datuk Daud just throw all that away by declaring we will follow Najib? Given his pathetic track record in controlling the religious extremists and bigots in West Malaysia, we will be led into the dark abyss of racial strife and religious intolerance should we be so foolish as to follow Najib. I would ask that our state leaders be more knowledgeable about the history of Sarawak and about our constitutional rights, and be more assertive in speaking up for these rights of Sarawak and Sarawakians so that the harmony in our community will be protected and preserved for generations to come.


No comments: