Ban on “Allah” for non-Muslims
and stop-work on world’s tallest Mazu statue – where are the moderates in
Cabinet and government to lead the fight against fanatics so that extremism
will not prevail?
by Lim Kit Siang
In his speech at the Christmas
high-tea organised by the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), the
Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made a stirring call to
moderates to lead the fight against fanatics or extremism will prevail.
He said: “If the moderates do not speak up, they will allow the extremists
to occupy centre stage. And then, extremism will be seen as the religious
or national approach in our country.”
However, from the continued ban on the use of “Allah” for non-Muslims and
the stop-work on the world’s tallest Mazu statue in Kudat, Malaysians are
entitled to ask: Where are the moderates in Cabinet and government to lead
the fight against fanatics so that extremism will not prevail?
How can the Cabinet justify the total ban on the use of the word “Allah”,
by surreptitiously inserting as an unwritten condition for the renewal of
the printing permit of the Catholic weekly Herald, when for 50 years
through four previous Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun
Hussein Onn and Tun Mahathir, the use of the word by Christians and Sikhs
had not caused religious misunderstanding, tension or conflict?
It is the Cabinet decision to impose a total ban on the use of the word
“Allah” for non-Muslim religions, trampling on the fundamental right of
freedom of religion for non-Muslims, which is exacerbating inter-religious
relations in plural Malaysia.
Why are there no moderates in the Cabinet to hold the middle-ground or
have the extremists and fanatics now outnumber the moderates among the
Last Sunday, DAP MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok and I made a special trip to
Kudat to gain first-hand understanding of the genesis for the Mazu statue
controversy, why there had been such a failure of good governance in all
three tiers of governance, local, state and federal, in the mishandling of
the issue making Malaysia an international laughing-stock.
I was very glad and relieved that the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri
Najib Razak, who was also in Sabah on the same day, touched on the subject
in Tuaran. Najib expressed the government’s hope that former Deputy Chief
Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat could settle the Mazu statue dispute
amicably without going to court. I immediately welcomed Najib’s statement.
However, after the government “somersault” in the Herald issue, renewing
the permit but coming out with an unwritten condition that it could not
use the word “Allah” which also infringes on the freedom of religion of
the Sikhs, I have no confidence that Najib’s Tuaran statement signified
the triumph of the moderates over the extremists in Cabinet and
My negative vibrations have been fortified by one former Chief Minister
attacking another former Chief Minister over the issue, when they should
be standing united to hold the middle ground to uphold the constitutional
right of Sabahans and Malaysians on freedom of religion by continuing with
the construction of the 108-ft Mazu statue in Kudat.
Yesterday’s Daily Express reported an attack on Chong Kat Kiat by Datuk
Yong Teck Lee (both former Sabah Chief Ministers), with the latter
accusing the former of not being prudent as “to aggravate the situation
and raise the political tension by making harsh and hostile statements (as
reported in newspapers on Jan 1)."
The Daily Express report “Accept in good faith: Yong” reported:
also a former Chief Minister, said the continued attacks by Chong on the
Government and its leaders had only made the situation worse. He said it
was also interesting that Chong has linked the so-called "Sipadan
incident" to the Mazu project.
He said by opening up another issue, Chong now says that the Mazu project
was, after all, not just about the Mazu project and there was a wider
dimension. "Was Sipadan the one and only issue? Or, was Sipadan, an
after-thought? If any, what were the other issues that Chong had with the
Government and the BN going back to a few years?" Yong asked.
He said these were questions which answers would shed more background on
how the Mazu project has turned out today.
What was the cause of Yong’s
attack on Chong? This was the Daily Express report “Najib fully aware I
exhausted all means: Chong” on Chong’s response to Najib’s statement in
Tuaran, explaining that he had no choice but to institute legal
"Not that I want to be
nasty and go to court. The suit that I took is not simply for the sake of
main main saja. I have no choice kerana saya kena paksa. I have no choice
but to seek legal redress kerana the State Government through the Kudat
Town Board (KTB) withdrew atau revoked the KTB's approval to the Mazu
project under a specific provision of Section 15 of the Town Planning
"And under Section 16 of the same ordinance, whoever is aggrieved by the
refusal of a permission or by the making of a prohibition must within 28
days from the date of receiving notice of the decision, appeal to the High
Court against the decision by notice in writing," he told a press
conference at his office at Alamesra here.
On another newspaper's heading "Govt Hopes Chong Will Settle Mazu Issue
Amicably: DPM", Chong said it is not the Government's hopes but actually
the hope of DPM.
"If it is the Government's hopes, sudah selesaibah. Betulkah? Ini ada
salah print sikit. Patut the DPM hopes. But DPM is not wrong because he
has been fully briefed by me."
Chong said since the letter of revocation was already issued to him on
Nov. 15, 2007, it is imperative that he act accordingly.
"Sekiranya, saya tidak ambil tindakan, ertinya saya salah, (If I don't
take action, it means I am wrong); ertinya I admitted something wrong with
my project. That is why I am appealing to the court."
On Sunday, Najib said the issue of the Mazu statue can be resolved if the
parties involved discuss it among themselves, instead of going through the
Chong reiterated that he has been sabar (patient) for more one-and-a-half
years. "If there is any BN leader in Malaysia who is really that patient,
then Chong Kah Kiat is the man. If I wanted to be nasty, jahat, nakal, I
would have taken the Government to court long time ago.
"I never did that. I have got letters and documents to prove how far and
how wide I have gone through all this. You think I like to have this sort
of problem? You think I like to give up my job?
"My message today is bukan saya seolah-olah main tunjuk lawa mau pergi
court. Tidak, saya kena paksa kerana under Section 16, I only got 28 days
to appeal against the decision.
"Kalau mau bincang, saya sudah bincang dengan banyak orang, KL and all
this. Semua surat saya ada, semua dokumen saya ada. Not that saya tidak
pernah buat perbincangan."
The former CM said he had not only been discussing but writing, pleading,
begging everybody in the BN to see reason, to be rational and reasonable.
"I have already done everything within my means. What did I get in the end
- a letter to cancel my project!
"For the record, I also met PM. PM came to LDP Congress on 11th Nov.
PM asked me to see him the following Wednesday. I went to his office. We
had a very good meeting on 14th Nov, to be fair to Pak Lah. He was very
good. Everything is done. But Pak Lah being a diplomat, you knowlah.
"After having successfully met the PM on 14th Nov, the State 'rewarded' me
with a letter of revocation letter on 15th Nov, contrary to what PM told
me. As a result of which, I have 28 days from the date I received (the
letter) to go to court, failing which, that would mean I salah (wrong)."
On the Government's hope to bring the Mazu statue issue back to the
negotiation table (instead of going through the court), Chong said it is
not a question of negotiating.
"What is there to negotiate? It is a question of whether the Government's
decision is right or wrong. Simple logic. If the decision (conveyed in a
directive dated June 6, 2006 from the Local Government & Housing Ministry,
ordering suspension of works on the project) and followed by a letter from
the State Secretary on June 23, 2006 (ordering immediate stoppage of work)
is correct and legal, why should the Government talk about compensation
and relocating the site?" he asked.
"I know I am not wrong. I have all this while adhered to the law."
Answering a reporter on Federal leaders' stand, Chong said: "They have
been very good and understanding, all I can say. I don't want to say much.
But at the right time if I am forced to."
Asked why then did the State not give the approval, he replied:
"Personal... I have said that already. If you remember May 2006 Sipadan -
that is how it started. Before Sipadan, my project is already completed
(except for assembling the statue). It's all documented in the national
and state papers. What was said, what was blasted, it's all thereÉall the
statements from the State leadership including mine.
"Bulan satu buat kerja, bulan dua, bulan tiga, bulan empat, bulan lima
buat kerja. All up already before this (Sipadan), in the open. Secara
terbuka saya punya projek. Siap, sekarang mau assemble. After Sipadan,
less than three weeks, my project was stoppedÉno one can run away from
Sipadan. How otherwise can you explain?"
It is disgraceful and tragic
that instead of the two former Sabah Chief Ministers standing on an united
platform working for the completion of the world’s tallest Mazu statue at
its original site in Kudat, as the 21 containers of granite carvings for
the 108 ft Mazu statue had arrived and are lying idle in the Kota Kinablu
port for the past 18 months, Yong Teck Lee is leading the attack on Chong
Kah Kiat to oppose the Kudat Mazu project!
Is Yong Teck Lee with the moderates or the extremists in Sabah and
Malaysia on the Kudat Mazu statue project?
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman