KUCHING, July 10 — Federal Minister of National Unity Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sidique today invited Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas to a discussion on ways to improve interfaith harmony in the country.
She said she had spoken to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong about Sarawak’s Unit For Other Religions (Unifor) and how it worked to promote cooperation, understanding and mutual respect between Islam and other religions and hoped Uggah could elaborate on its achievements.
“I am inviting Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas to attend this meeting over high tea.
“He can then brief our King on the formation and role of Unifor,” she said during a courtesy call on Uggah, who is also the minister in-charge of Unifor.
Halimah said she will be meeting the King again soon, together with the national heads of all religions in the country and heads of religious organisations.
Unifor was set up in 2016 by former Sarawak chief minister, the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem to take care of non-Islamic religions.
“We have learnt and are continuing to learn a lot from Sarawak in terms of promoting and strengthening racial and religious tolerance, unity and harmony,” Halimah stressed.
Halimah, on her first official visit since her appointment in March, was accompanied by her deputy Senator Datuk Ti Lian Ker, the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Wan Suraya Wan Md Radzi and director-general Datuk Hisamuddin Mohd Sujak.
She said her ministry would work very closely with Unifor and to learn from its wide experience in dealing with all religious issues.
“We want to adopt and adapt the concept of the unit into our community harmony committee,” she said.
Uggah said Unifor had played its role in further enhancing solidarity among Sarawakians.
“They now feel they have a place to bring up their problems.
“We have solved what we can do for them and there is no discrimination,” he said in his speech.
He added that Unifor is also a bridge between Islam and the various religious groups where issues which can bring the people into conflict are amicably discussed and resolved for the benefits of all.
He said it is in the national interest too if Sarawak continues to enjoy racial and religious harmony and solidarity.
Earlier, Unifor director Richard Lon, in his briefing to Halimah, said out of Sarawak’s 2.6 million population (2013), about 1.1 million or 42.6 per cent are Christians, 837,200 or 32.2 per cent Muslims, 351,000 Buddhist or 13.5 per cent and 304,000 or 11.7 per cent practising other faiths.
He said there are about 2,335 churches and temples.
He said the state government since 2016 had provided grants totalling RM115 millions to Unifor which had enabled 520 religious projects to be carried out.
Lon also said the state government has allocated a 1. 2-hectare site at Ong Tiang Swee Road here for Unifor to build its office complex.