Lau: Keluarga Malaysia vision undermined by religious, racial issues unless “actions meet words”

Senator Robert Lau

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Oct 5: “Keluarga Malaysia” is a beautiful vision but Senator Robert Lau cautioned that the increasing number of religious and race issues could seriously endanger the country’s diversity and harmony as actions should meet verbal commitments, not be in conflict with them.

He observed that over the last four decades since the formation of Malaysia, there has been increasing encroachment on the right to religious freedom, referring to issues like the use of “Allah” in Sarawak, the detention of Malay Bibles coming into Sarawak and the difficulties for those who want to leave the Islamic faith, especially among the children of those who converted through marriage.


“More recently, we see this effort taking a more forceful form, through legislation. Five years ago, the attempt to amend Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (RUU335), also known as the Hudud law, was one such attempt.

“Then, there are news saying that four new shariah laws are being drafted by the federal government, including a bill on control and restrictions on the development of non-Muslim religions, is the latest move in that direction.

“The idea of wanting to use the law to control and restrict the development of non-Muslim religions is most disturbing,” he said during the debate on the motion of thanks for the Royal Address in Parliament in Kuala Lumpur today.

If leaders believe in the concept of Malaysia as envisioned in 1963 of a nation that is progressive and respected in the world community, he reminded the House, their actions must reflect this.

“Do unto other as you would have them do unto you,” Lau said, quoting the golden and universal rule expressed in all major religions from Buddhism to Christianity, Confucianism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism and Taoism.

“Religion is a sensitive and emotive issue that has to be kept at personal level,” he added.

“In some parts of Sarawak, there are Christian and Muslim families that stay together under the same roof. Religion is of no issue because they believe ‘your religion is your religion and my religion is my religion’. That’s the way it has been for us in Sarawak for the last hundred years and that’s the way it should be all the time in the future,” he added, quoting the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem who directed all Sarawak lawmakers to vote against a private member’s Bill to elevate the Shariah Court when he was the fourth Sarawak Chief Minister.

Lau explained that Malaysia was formed in 1963 on the foundation of a progressive secular nation with Sarawak and Sabah persuaded to join 58 years ago with the promise that there will be religious freedom as the leaders of Sarawak were very fearful of the encroachment of Islamisation.

Lau quoted the then Prime Minister of Malaya Tunku Abdul Rahman’s address at the opening ceremony of the Second Meeting of the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee held in Kuala Lumpur from Jan 6 to 8, 1962:

“To suggest that because the official religion in this country is Islam, that the Federation of Malaya is non-secular state and that when Malaysia comes into being the people of the Borneo territories would all be forced to embrace Islam is a wicked lie.”

During the first meeting of the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee Meeting held from Dec 18 to 20, 1961 in Kuching, the Malaya representative went to great length to assure the representatives from the two Borneo territories, he said and quoted:

“Article 3 refers to Religion, and I think there must be some misapprehension or misunderstanding. The article says Islam is the religion of the Federation or it may be called the State religion or the official religion loosely. Now one must not confuse that with a State nation like Pakistan. That is a religious State. All the laws are based on the Islam religion. In our case, it is a secular state, and in the constitution all the safeguards are written in.”

Lau also referred to the Cobbold Commission Report that formed the justification for the formation of Malaysia in 1963 in which the Commission’s chairman and British members recommended that “the State Constitution of each of the Borneo territories should contain a provision to the effect that there shall be complete religious freedom as to worship, education and propagation”. — DayakDaily