Malaysia now has to deal with legal complexities which were never there before in 1963 but now affecting our livestyles because of economic progress.
Prime Minister Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia concept was supposed to unite all races, specifically, bring Sabah and Sarawak closer to Peninsula Malaysia as 1Malaysia.
The people welcome the overarching concept of unity in diversity, a 1Malaysia happy family, happily connected to each other, to and fro the Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsula – to work, to play, to live in peace.
It got Air Asia Berhad flying 1Malaysia back and forth more busily than a bee. LRTs, Monorails, KTM Komuter and Rapid KL buses are moving more and more 1Malaysians back and forth kampungs to towns and cities daily.
This pot has melted so that now we cannot easily distinguish easily who is a Peninsula Malay/Chinese/Indian or a Sabahan, a Sarawakian or even an Indonesian anymore.
Multicultural 1Malaysians living in harmony, each assured of their right to practice religions as appropriate as safeguarded by customs and customary rights agreed upon since 1963.
And then it happen, with a High Court ruling on 31 Dec 2009 which ruled that the Herald can use the word ‘Allah’ in its Bahasa edition.
News reported of hurt feelings of Muslims of Peninsula Malaysia, with anecdotal evidences like, “My friends all never use Allah in their prayers.”
Is that the situation with our Sabah or Sarawak friends?
UPKO President, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok testified it has been customary for Sabah and Sarawak Christians using word Allah in their prayers.
“With the greatest of respect to those who may feel uncomfortable with me mentioning this, the Christian community, not unlike the Christians in Indonesia and the Arab world, has been using this word for a long time. And it will be a herculean task for the government, if indeed it wants, to enforce the prohibition of the word in Christian worship.”
We read news of groups representing rights of Muslims of Peninsula Malaysia appealing to the Agong and Sultans to protect their rights to exclusive use ‘Allah’.
Aren’t the states of Peninsula Malaysia already doing it?
The State enactments have been protecting Muslim rights for a very long time already.
Malaysia has the Federal Law and State Laws and we live them, yes?
But then we hear politicians Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom (PM’s office) and Datuk Clarence Bongkos Malakun (Justice of Peace, Deputy President of Sabah Kadazandusun Culture Association) advising non-Muslims who are using the term ‘Allah’ to stop doing so in the name of preserving peace and to placate hurt feelings.
Why are lawmakers asking rakyat of the states of Sabah and Sarawak (who has been assured of their customary practices in 1963) to give up their customary rights?
It also begs the question, is it legal to ask Sabah and Sarawak Malaysians working in Peninsula Malaysia, who are exercising the customary usage of “Allah” in their prayers, to relinguish their right in religion when in Peninsula?
We remember the guarantees which Sabah and Sarawak asked for, from the Cobbold Report which recorded:
“The non-Muslim communities are most insistent that there should be complete religious freedom as to worship, education, and propagation, in the Borneo territories.
We recommend the insertion in the State Constitution of a specific provision to this effect.
“There remain the provisions in the existing Federal Constitution of Malaya that Islam is the national religion and that certain public expenditure may be incurred for Islamic purposes. All Muslim communities would welcome the provision that Islam should be the national religion of the Federation. But even with guarantees of freedom of religion for the Borneo States, we have met with strong resistance from many non-Muslim communities to the idea that these Federal provisions should apply to the Borneo territories. We consider that this is a matter for the peoples of the Borneo territories (which have a non-Muslim majority) to decide for themselves at a later stage when fully elected representative bodies have been constituted. We recommend therefore that the Federal provisions should not be extended to the Borneo territories in the meantime.” “
Malaysia laws needs serious attention and ministration by its legislators to conduct regular maintenance and fine tuning the health and position of the laws of Malaysia.
Our Yang Berhormats cannot continue to dodge the effects of modernity or to abdicate its duty to provide a legislative framework that works to protect personal and business rights.
Legislation, not rhetoric is crucial to the Malaysia aspiration to transform herself into a high income economy.
Back up the legislation as an unflinching assurance to foreign investors that their investments will be safeguarded by the Laws of Malaysia if they take their business to Malaysia.
Legislate for 1Malaysia transformation now.
By: Ho Aoi Ling
The writer was a former Senior Research Executive with MCA think tank, INSAP.