KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 — The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) advised the Selangor government to withhold bibles seized from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) pending the conclusion of a probe, state exco member Elizabeth Wong has said.
Wong said Selangor religious affairs exco member Sallehen Mukhyi had informed the state government of a “process” that it needed to comply with in the bible controversy by seeking legal advice from the federal prosecutors.
“Meaning that we have to write to the Attorney-General to find out what is going on and they are the ones who recommended the bibles be held back, can only be given back after investigation is done or the case is closed,” the Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment exco member told The Malay Mail Online when met at the Selangor state assembly last week.
On January 2, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) seized over 300 copies of Malay-language and Iban-language bibles containing the word “Allah” from BSM’s Selangor office and remain with them more than three months later.
The Selangor government refused to intervene, saying the onus was on the society to write to the AG for the bibles to be returned if they so desired.
But Wong later said she had written to the AG on April 4 on behalf of the state government, asking the AG to order Jais to return the bibles.
Selangor’s decision later prompted the BSM to relocate its office from the state, citing its disappointment with the state government’s decision not to interfere in the seizure of its bibles.
Despite this, Wong stressed that the Selangor government was committed to ensure the bibles’ return, saying it was only a “matter of time” before this can be done.
She said she was in contact with the AG’s office, while Sallehen was in touch with the Home Ministry, saying they were working to secure the release of the bibles.
“We are doing our part to ensure the bibles are returned. Maybe it’s not going to be immediate like three weeks or three months. But we will ensure the bibles are returned. That’s the commitment of the state government,” the Bukit Lanjan assemblyman said.
“It’s just that we need to check all the necessary boxes before we do that,” she added.
When asked if Selangor’s handling of the bible issue would disenchant urban and non-Muslim voters with Pakatan Rakyat (PR), Wong said the pact could not take such support for granted.
“If there’s been a mistake in the process, we have to make sure we work harder to ensure the support remains with us,” she said.
She added that Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim had made it clear that he did not want people to feel “under siege” or feel that “Christians do not have a place in Selangor”
“We are working out the best possible scenario, yes there are always hurdles, yes there are big potholes but the commitment of the Selangor government is that everyone has a place in Selangor,” she said.
The Malay Mail Online spoke to Wong after BSM’s April 15 decision to relocate its headquarters from Selangor to Kuala Lumpur.
BSM president Lee Min Choon then said the federal government has given “better protection” to the society’s operations, and has even upheld the Cabinet’s 10-point solution to the “Allah” row by allowing free movement of its bible shipments.