Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 2nd of April, 2014, in Kuala Lumpur
We read with great concern Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim’s statement yesterday that the Selangor state government has decided to ask the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) to write directly to the Attorney General to request for the confiscated bibles to be returned back to them. We are especially concerned over the MB’s statement that BSM “needed to show their determination and desire” to get back the confiscated Malay and Iban bibles from the Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (JAIS).
We want to remind the MB that on the 8th of January, 2014, one week after the bibles were sized by JAIS, the MB instructed JAIS to seek clarification from the Home Ministry on whether the Malay and Iban bibles fulfilled the 10 point agreement announced by the BN government in 2011 just prior to the Sarawak state elections.
We hope that the MB remembers some of the more salient points of the 10 point agreement including the following points which clearly show that printing and distributing Malay bibles to Christians in Peninsular Malaysia is consistent with the 10 points:
1. Bibles in all languages can be imported into the country, including Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia.
2. These Bibles can also be printed locally in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. This is a new development which should be welcomed by the Christian groups.
5. Taking into account the interest of the larger Muslim community, for Peninsular Malaysia, Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia, imported or printed, must have the words “Christian Publication” and the cross sign printed on the front covers.
We also want to remind the MB that we still have not heard the outcome of the JAIS investigation into the BM and Iban bibles which the MB said, on the 25th of January, needed to be completed before the Selangor state government decided on the next course of action. We urge the MB to request JAIS for more timely updates on the progress of this investigation and whether it is necessary for ALL 300 copies of the BM and Iban bibles to be kept while the investigation is ongoing.
The call by the MB to ask BSM to write directly to the Attorney General is especially surprising and concerning given that he was reported to have said as recently as Monday, 31st of January, 2014 that a resolution to the matter was in the final stages.
The MB’s request is an abdication of the responsibility of the state government to find a fair and just resolution to this matter that pertains to the constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion including the right to manage one’s own religious affairs as enshrined in Article 11(3) of the Federal Constitution.
We want to remind the MB that Pakatan Rakyat in Selangor was given a very strong mandate in the 13th General Election based on Pakatan’s promise to govern inclusively, fairly and justly. To ask BSM to write directly to the Attorney General and to show their “determination and desire” to seek the return of their bibles would be seen as ignoring this election promise. We urge the MB to proactively find a solution to this issue by engaging with the key stakeholders including JAIS, BSM, the Attorney General and the Home Ministry rather than to pass this responsibility to BSM. To show determination and desire to find a fair and just solution to this problem would be the hallmarks of a genuine reformer.