KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 — The National Registration Department (NRD) will end its challenge against a Sarawak Christian’s bid to remove “Islam” from his MyKad, Tan Sri Adenan Satem said today.
The incumbent chief minister said he was informed of the decision by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today.
The case of Dayak Bidayuh convert Roneey Rebit had led churches in the state to question Adenan’s previous pledge to protect the religious freedom of Sarawak’s natives, ahead of the May 7 state election.
“I have indeed spoken to the prime minister today on the matter, who gave me the assurance that the appeal by NRD will be withdrawn,” Adenan said in a statement.
“I must apologise for the delay as I only got to know about the matter today,” the chief minister said.
The prime minister is in Sarawak to help the state Barisan Nasional (BN) campaign for the May 7 state election.
Earlier today, Sarawak PKR joint director of operations Lynette Tan criticised NRD for filing the appeal.
She said both the prime minister and his deputy had an obligation to explain NRD’s alleged interference with the religious freedom of Sarawakians.
“The NRD is under the purview of the Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the deputy prime minister, and whether they are on the same page with the chief minister on the issue of autonomy for Sarawak,” Tan said.
The case made national headlines earlier this year after the Sarawak High Court made a landmark judgment allowing Roneey to revert to his childhood creed and ordered the NRD to issue the now 41-year-old a new MyKad.
Roneey had sought to change his Muslim name on his MyKad from Azmi bin Mohamad Azam Shah and to remove the word “Islam” from his MyKad so he could officially be known as a Christian again.
He was converted to Islam at age eight by his Christian-turned-Muslim parents.
However, the NRD insisted that Roneey obtained an order from the Shariah Court before it could process his application.
Dissatisfied, he filed a judicial review at the civil High Court to challenge the NRD and on March 24, won the case.
But a month later on April 22, NRD filed an appeal with the Court of Appeal to set aside the decision of the Kuching High Court although the state Islamic Affairs Department and the Sarawak Affairs Council did not object to Roneey’s request to revert.
Sarawak has one of the highest Christian populations in the country, numbering roughly 1.05 million or 42.61 per cent of the total state population, based on the last census in 2010.