KUCHING: Actions have to meet the theme and objectives of the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), however issues concerning religion and race constantly challenge such objectives, says Senator Robert Lau.
He said that over the last four decades, there was increasing encroachment on the rights of religious freedom in the country.
“The issues such as, the use of the word ‘Allah’ in Sarawak, the detention of Malay Bible coming into Sarawak and the difficulties for those who want to convert out of Islam, especially among the children of those who converted through marriage.
“More recently, we see this effort taking a more forceful form, through legislation. Five years ago, the attempt to amend Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 335), also known as the Hudud law, was one such attempt,” he said in his debate on the motion of thanks for the Royal Address at the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (Oct 5).
He said recently there was also news quoting a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (Religious Affairs) saying that four new shariah laws were being drafted by the federal government, including a Bill on control and restrictions on the development of non-Muslim religions, and “the idea of wanting to use the law to control and restrict the development of non-Muslim religions, is most disturbing.”
“If our leaders believe in the concept of Malaysia as envisioned in 1963, a nation that is progressive and respected in the world community, then actions must reflect this.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This golden and universal rule is expressed in all major religions, from Buddhism, to Christianity, Confucianism, Hebraism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism and Taoism,” he added.
He also said that religion was a sensitive and emotive issue, and it had to be kept at personal level.
On another note, he said that one of the main tasks of the leaders of any country was to ensure the people had good living standards.
“Our first Prime Minister during his address at the opening ceremony of the Second Meeting of the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee held in Kuala Lumpur, when he was out to court Sarawak and North Borneo, had said that ‘One of the principal objectives in forming Malaysia is to further the economic development of the Borneo territories so that their standards of living and technical skills may be raised and a firm basis provided for accelerated economic growth’.
“But after so many years, this promise has not been realised. What the people want is economic development and that opportunity is made available to all irrespective of race and or religion.”
Nevertheless, Lau said he was pleased to note that the King in his address had taken notice of the need to speed up the development of Sarawak and Sabah.