Temple president: Unwise for Baru Bian to criticise Unifor, a model of religious freedom for Malaysia

Shankar Ram Asnani (file photo)

KUCHING, Dec 16: It is unwise for any religious leader to criticise Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) for allegedly assisting the community for political interests.

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Association Kuching president Shankar Ram Asnani opined that Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) N81 Ba’Kelalan candidate Baru Bian may not have been aware that many churches, Buddhist temples, Chinese temples, Indian temples, Sikh temples, Bahai and other places of worship have benefitted and received assistance from Unifor since its inception.

“Baru may not have known that various temples and other organisations were also assisted with funds from Unifor and we are very grateful to the government of Sarawak and Unifor.

“All communities and other religious organisations have expressed their appreciation for the initiative of our Sarawak government, and we hope that it can be emulated by other states across the South China Sea,” said Shankar Ram in a statement today in response to a news report titled “Baru Raises Red Flags Over Govt Donations to Sarawak Churches” carried by a national online news portal on Dec 12, 2021.

In the article, Baru questioned the distribution of aid to churches by Unifor. To Shankar Ram, the accusations and allegations made by Baru in the article “are misconceived and misinformed”.

Shankar said it is important that the people of Sarawak understand the significance of Unifor where there is a 14-member ad hoc council within Unifor (with Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Association Kuching being a key member as well as other mainstream organisations that Unifor has forged ties with) to help grow and flourish as well as promote other religions and communities in Sarawak.

He said this is in line with the freedom of religion guaranteed under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, a fundamental right which the Sarawak government has given full emphasis to. He added Sarawakians have fought for such rights and their dreams came true when Unifor was formed by the former Chief Minister, the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem (Tok Nan).

Today Unifor continues under Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah as the minister-in-charge and is placed immediately under the Chief Minister’s Department.

“Unifor is such organisation at the heartbeat of religious harmony and unity. He (Baru) should not try to ridicule Unifor for distributing funds to churches because all the other religious organisations also benefitted from Unifor’s equal sharing basis.

“Being a responsible leader, one must be able to show the quality of being able to give credit when it is due and criticise when only real and necessary.

“Unifor is a unique unit which is the one and only of its kind in the whole nation. Unifor’s setup and existence is the envy of our fellow Malaysians across the South China Sea.

“We ought to be thankful to have an inclusive and understanding Sarawak government who is willing to listen to the voices of the rakyat and act on the reasonable requests and appeals of our people,” said Shankar Ram.

He pointed out that what is also significant for all Sarawakians to celebrate is the recent Federal Constitution amendment relevant to Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) on Dec 14, 2021, thereby restoring the status of Sarawak and Sabah to where they rightfully belong within the federation.

“All Sarawakians must join in the celebration of this significant development in the quest by our Sarawak government to fight for our rights, autonomy, and devolution of power. It is the first step towards greater things to come.”

Citing tje Sarawak government’s success in demanding Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) to pay Sarawak Sales Tax, he urged all Sarawakians to stand together with the Sarawak government in this noble quest and not pour cold water on the achievement.

Shankar Ram who is a senior lawyer said there are many notable achievements accomplished by the Sarawak government, but the opposition stayed mum.

On Baru’s colleague, PSB candidate for N11 Batu Lintang See Chee How who resigned from the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) Consultative Committee, Shankar Ram questioned why See resigned when Sarawak needed him most when his role as a committee member was so important.

“Should a YB only appear during election time and start criticising when the people need their dedication to see to the future of all Sarawakians? Baru should question and criticise his fellow comrade See Chee How and not attack Unifor.

“What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Shankar Ram. — DayakDaily