KUCHING, Mar 18 — The Sarawak government has always been consistent in upholding religious tolerance for all communities, regardless of whether they are from major or minor faiths, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said today.
It was responding to Parti Sarawak Bersatu president Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh who two days ago accused the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government of remaining silent and passive amid federal attempts to restrict the constitutional rights of Christians in the state.
“Our deed in assisting other religions through the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) is a testimony.
“There has never been a restriction for Christians in Sarawak to use the word ‘Allah’ with respect,” the CMO said in a statement.
It added that Muslims in Sarawak respect the Christians as much as the Christians respect the Muslims, and that it was the same with people of other religions.
It said the state government’s policy on religious tolerance has been the same since the leadership of Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud to the administration of the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem until now, under Datuk Abang Johari Openg as chief minister.
The CMO stressed that the GPS government will continue to defend and preserve Sarawak’s religious tolerance as it is the core unifying factor for its people.
“It is understandable that certain quarters who are merely pseudo-champions — to use Tok Nan’s phraseology — is politicising the issue in view of the impending state elections,” it said, referring to Adenan’s commitment that there was no law in Sarawak that prevented Christians from using the term ‘Allah’ to refer to God and that he would not permit such a law in Sarawak as long as he was the chief minister.
The CMO said the GPS leadership trusts that Sarawakians will not be influenced by critics who cast aspersions on its policies to protect religious unity in Sarawak.
Wong, who is a former second finance minister expressed concern on March 16 with the GPS government’s silence while the federal government appealed the High Court judgement to quash a 1986 directive banning the use of the word “Allah” by Christians in their publications.
He had said the failure by Putrajaya to respect Sarawak’s constitutional right was a fundamental problem today, representing a continuing failure of the administration, where lip-service, not moral leadership, was the order of the day.
Wong also called on the GPS government and Abang Johari to use their “kingmaker” status in the federal government and openly make their stand to preserve Sarawak’s secular status.
He added this course of action to let the decision of the High Court stand would be proper in the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963, and also to honour the words and legacy of the late Adenan.
On March 10, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur ruled that the government directive via a December 5, 1986 circular issued by the Home Ministry’s publications control division banning the use of the word “Allah” by the Christians was unlawful and unconstitutional.