Putrajaya breaches promises to preserve Sarawak’s rights to freedom of religion

Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian (file photo).

KUCHING, March 16: The Federal government has broken its promises to Sarawak under the formation of Malaysia in 1963 to preserve the right to freedom of religion for Sarawakians.

In highlighting this, Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) president Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian expressed grave disappointment with the Federal government in filing an appeal against the High Court’s last week ruling that Christians can use the word “Allah” in their religious education and books.

“The Federal government has breached their promises and assurances given to the people of Sarawak on this fundamental right – the right to freedom of religion.

“This issue at hand is just one of the smaller infringements on the rights (granted to Sarawak and Sabah),” he slammed in a statement today following confirmation that Putrajaya has filed its appeal against the case yesterday (March 15).

Dr Sim, who is also Minister for Local Government and Housing observed that the decision to appeal by the majority of the Cabinet ministers may be politically triggered in view of the instability of the present government and the need to garner support from PAS and UMNO.

“The appeal can also be seen as palatable for Malaya (Peninsula Malaysia) society and political parties where the majority of the people are Muslims.

“However, that does not give the Federal government the right to impose their version of Malaysia on Sarawak that is contrary to what was agreed in 1963,” he stressed.

If the Federal government insisted their “version of Malaysia” instead of that formed in 1963 on Sarawak, SUPP thus demanded that a comprehensive review on the role Sarawak should play in Malaysia.

Dr Sim reminded that Malaysia was formed between Malaya (Peninsula Malaysia), Sarawak and Sabah as equal partners in 1963 with the fundamental conditions that Sarawak has freedom to religion with no official religion, among others.

“Before 1963, the people of Sarawak were apprehensive of the possible encroachment into their freedom of worship and religion should Malaysia be formed with Malaya as the dominant party.

“In order to assuage the fear of the people of Sarawak, the leaders from Malaya when courting for the support of the people of Sarawak gave their promises and assurances that the people of Sarawak have full say and freedom over religion,” he further pressed.

Meanwhile, the appeal decision has drawn backlash from a group of Sarawakian and Sabahan lawmakers including the Opposition who had today in one voice demanded that Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassion, the Federal government and the people of Malaysia withdraw the appeal.

The group comprising 18 members of Parliament (MPs) and four Senators from Sarawak and Sabah have called upon all Malaysians to accept the ruling that declared the “Allah” ban since 1986 as unconstitutional.

The 12 MPs from Sarawak are Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem (Serian), Anyi Ngau (Baram), Willie Mongin (Puncak Borneo), Larry Sng (Julau), Baru Bian (Selangau), Datuk Masir Kujat (Sri Aman), Mordi Bimol (Mas Gading), Kelvin Yii (Bandar Kuching), Chong Chieng Jen (Stampin), Wong Ling Biu (Sarikei), Alice Lau Kiong Yieng (Lanang) and Oscar Ling (Sibu) while the two senators are Robert Lau (SUPP) and Alan Ling (DAP Sarawak).

The Kuala Lumpur High Court had on March 10 ruled that the non-Muslims may use the word “Allah” as well as three other words of “Baitullah”, “Kaabah” and “solat” for teaching purposes which the Malaysian government has banned for 35 years.