GEORGE TOWN, June 11 — Penang state executive councillor Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim apologised today on behalf of the state’s Islamic department (Jaipp) for the manner in which its officials interrupted the Taoist-style funeral of Teoh Cheng Cheng on Monday to remove her body.
The state religious affairs committee chairman admitted the act had been insensitive towards those at the funeral, especially Teoh’s mother Tan Mah Suan and the rest of her family members.
He also offered the state’s assurance that the incident would not be repeated as Jaipp and the officer responsible have been informed of their mistakes.
“I'm apologising as the state executive councillor and also on behalf of Jaipp as it could have been handled professionally and amicably,” he told a brief press conference at Komtar today.
He said the Jaipp officer involved had acted in a rush as he was short of time and had also neglected to inform his superiors what his intended actions were.
“He did not inform me when, in the last five to six years, the procedure in such cases is that the Jaipp director's enforcement unit, mufti department, district religious officers and I must be informed before anything is done,” he said.
On Monday, Jaipp officers accompanied by a policeman interrupted Teoh's Taoist style funeral to inform her family that the 38-year-old had converted to Islam.
Teoh had died on Saturday morning and the family had organised a Taoist funeral for her which included a three-day wake on the ground floor of her apartment in Macallum Street.
Abdul Malik said the Jaipp officer received a report that Teoh was a Muslim convert at about 12.30pm on Monday.
“He was short of time as he had to check the Jaipp documents to confirm her religious status and in the rush, he neglected to act professionally or to consider her family's feelings,” he explained.
He said being short of time was no excuse and the Jaipp officer has already apologised for his mistake.
“It is regretted that this happened as in all these years, we have handled similar cases professionally and amicably where we fully explain the whole situation to family members so that they would understand before we take any action,” he said.
Abdul Malik said he was not aware of the incident until a reporter sought his response at about 5pm on Monday.
He offered his assurance that he has spoken to the officer involved and to Jaipp to ensure the incident would not be repeated.
“I promise that such an incident will not happen again and the state government is prepared to assist the family in this matter,” he said.
However, Abdul Malik said, on Monday, the family had allowed Jaipp to take the body after they were shown documents of Teoh's conversion to Islam.
“They had agreed to let Jaipp take her body but I don't know what happen after that for them to change their mind,” he said.
Jaipp took Teoh's body on Monday and her body is now at the mortuary due to the dispute over her religious status.
Yesterday, Tan first met with Pengkalan Kota state assemblyman Lau Keng Ee and state exco Jagdeep Singh Deo to ask for help to stop her daughter's body from being buried the Muslim way.
She later met with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and the latter offered legal assistance to the family to take the matter to court.
Lim today expressed his disappointment and regret in the manner which the Jaipp officer had acted.
“This incident left a negative impact to the multiracial community,” he said.
He said now the matter will be decided by the court since the family is taking it to the civil court.