Support for Najib’s proposal
for an amicable settlement of the proposal to build the world’s tallest Mazu
statue in Kudat and call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the
mishandling and lack of good governance in all three tiers of local, state
and federal government resulting in the Kudat Mazu statue controversy
undermining nation-building, inter-religious understanding and turning
Malaysia an international laughing-stock
by Lim Kit Siang
I welcome the statement by the
Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday expressing the
government’s hope that former Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat
will settle the Mazu status issue amicably without going to court.
He said the government is hoping to bring the Mazu statue issue back to
the negotiation table instead of going through the court.
I support Najib’s proposal for an amicable settlement of the proposal to
build the world’s tallest Mazu statue in Kudat.
It is important however for Najib to understand that the principles and
issues involved in the Mazu statue controversy do not just concern Chong
as one person, but have become a major public issue of national and even
international importance involving not just three million Sabahans but
also 26 million Malaysians.
I am glad that immediately after my visit to Kudat to visit the site of
the Mazu statue, there is now the possibility of a new development.
The Mazu statue controversy should not only be resolved at the negotiation
table, I will go even one step further and call for a Royal Commission of
Inquiry into the mishandling and lack of good governance in all three
tiers of local, state and federal government resulting in the Kudat Mazu
statue controversy undermining nation-building and inter-religious
understanding as well as turning Malaysia into an international
I have just returned from a three-day visit to Kota Kinabalu, Kudat and
Sandakan including a 500-km land journey from Kota Kinabalu through Kota
Belud to Kudat and onwards to Sandakan through Marudu, with the
Kudat-Sandakan journey taking eight hours through some very treacherous
stretches (with 25 km of unsealed portion of the Paitan highway after the
Yesterday morning, together with DAP National Publicity Secretary and MP
for Seputeh Teresa Kok, Kota Kinabalu DAP Branch Chairman Hiew King Cheu
and Karambunai DAP Branch Chairman Pastor Jeffrey Kumin I visited the site
of the Mazu statute (where over a million ringgit had been spent to
complete the statue platform) for a first-hand understanding of the
controversy over the proposal to build the world’s tallest Mazu (Goddess
of the Sea) in Kudat to enhance the international tourism competitiveness
of Kudat, Sabah and Malaysia.
A lot of things happened in the two years between 12th December 2005 when
a ground-breaking ceremony for the project for the world’s tallest Mazu
statue was held and 12th December 2007 when Chong instituted legal
proceedings against the Kudat Town Board (KTB) and the Sabah state
government for stopping the project, as evident from the following
chronology of events:
• 12th December 2005 –
ground-breaking ceremony for the world’s tallest Mazu statue after
approval of site layout and building plans for the project.
• 8th February 2006 - the Kudat Town Board (KTB) issued a letter of
approval valid for two years for the construction of the Mazu statue.
Works on the project commenced,
including piling and construction of a 20 feet platform which was
completed five months later at a cost of RM1 million.
Orders were placed for granite carvings of the statue by craftsmen from
China and the granite carvings had been shipped from China and are now
stored in a containers in Kota Kinabalu.
The Immigration Department had also given approval for visas to be issued
to 11 craftsmen from China to assemble the granite carvings of the statue.
• May 25, 2006, KTB, acting on the directive of the Sabah Local
Government and Housing Minister, ordered the temporary suspension of the
work project pending further directive from the Chief Minister.
• June 6, 2006, the Sabah Local Government and Housing Ministry
issued a written directive to KTB to order suspension of works on the
project pending approval from the Chief Minister.
• June 23, 2006, the State Secretary issued a letter to the KTB
stating that the government had, after considering all the circumstances,
decided that works on the project should stop immediately.
• July 7, 2006, the Mufti of Sabah issued a Fatwa (religious
decree) advising that the construction of the statue would offend Islam
and ordered that the construction be stopped in order to protect the
sensitivities of Muslims.
• Nov. 15, 2007, KTB withdrew the approval granted by their letter
of Feb. 8, 2006, giving reason that the site layout plan and building
plans had not been approved by the second respondent by reason of
non-compliance with Section 15 of the Town and Country Planning Ordinance.
• December 12, 2007 – Chong Kah Keat institutes legal proceedings
against KTB and Sabah State Government for stopping the work project,
seeking declarations from the Kota Kinabalu High Court, inter alias,
1. that the letter of withdrawal of approval dated Nov. 15, 2007 by KTB be
revoked, set aside and declared null and void;
2. that the letter of approval dated Feb. 8, 2006 be confirmed as valid
and binding on all parties concerned;
3. compensation for loss suffered by project proponents.
The reasons which had been
given so far do not stand up to any scrutiny. For instance, the argument
that the Mazu statue is close to the Asy-Syarikin Mosque in Kudat
collapses on close examination.
This is because the statue would be about 2,400 ft from the mosque,
whereas there is another temple, the Fu Tik Temple which is just opposite
the mosque across the road in the town centre or about 100 ft away.
The Fu Tik Temple was built as far back as 1941 or some 66 years ago and
was there when the Asy-Syarikin Mosque was built in the 80s. If the
Asy-Syarikin Mosque had no objection to being so close to the Fu Tik
Temple, the oldest temple of the Hokkien community in Kudat, and build it
in the 80s about 100 ft away, why should there be any objection to the
building of the Mazu statue which is about 2,400 ft away?
There are many places of worship of different faiths in the country which
are next to one another and even share the use of common passages or
spaces, for instance a temple and a mosque in Kuching which one above
another while in Miri there is a church and a mosque next to each other
sharing the use of common passageways.
In ancient times in the Middle East, Muslims, Christians and followers of
other faiths share the same premises for their religious worship. Why are
we not learning the best cultural, religious and civilisation practices in
the history of mankind but want to blaze out a new path of extremism and
intolerance in mutli-religious Malaysia which is also against the
constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion?
I understand that the Muslims in Kudat do not have any objection to the
building of the world’s tallest Muza statue as they know its great tourism
potential in kick-starting the economy in Kudat, which is the poorest in
Sabah and therefore in Malaysia.
The insensitive controversy objecting to the building of the Mazu statue
is created by a small group of Muslims outside Kudat with ulterior
personal and political objectives, which set a dangerous precedent in
undermining inter-religious understanding, goodwill and co-existence not
only in Sabah state but in Malaysia as well.
The other objection that the construction of any statue or replica of a
living thing, either human or animistic, is haram and should not be
allowed – which is the fatwa of the Mufti Sabah – is even more subversive
of the multi-religious foundation of Malaysia. Imagine the horrendous
consequences if such a fatwa is accepted in Malaysia and implemented
throughout the country?
The protracted controversy of the Kudat Mazu statue for the past 18
months, resulting in the highly-principled protest resignation of Chong
Kah Kiat as Sabah Deputy Chief Minister is a reflection of mishandling,
total insensitivity and lack of good governance in all three tiers of
local, state and federal government resulting in the Kudat Mazu statue
controversy undermining nation-building, inter-religious understanding and
turning Malaysia an international laughing-stock.
There are two things which Najib should do immediately:
• Firstly, remove all the
man-made and politically-motivated obstacles to the construction of the
world’s tallest Mazu statue in Kudat; and
• Secondly, get the Federal Cabinet to set up a Royal Commission of
Inquiry into the mishandling, insensitivity and lack of good governance in
all three tiers of governance, local, state and federal government,
resulting in the protracted and divisive Mazu statue controversy so that
Malaysia could be spared in future of such misgovernance which could only
undermine nation-building, inter-religious understanding and make Malaysia
into an international laughing-stock.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman