Abang Johari (third left) and Uggah (right) listen to an explanation by Unifor Complex consultant David Ong (second left) while Unifor director Richard Lon (left) looks on. Photo: Mohd Alif Noni

KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg officiated at the earth-breaking ceremony of the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) Complex at Ong Tiang Swee Road here on Tuesday (Oct 20). Besides the establishment of Unifor, the RM70 million complex is a reflection of the Chief Minister’s inclusiveness policy and a symbol of the state’s unique acceptance of all religions and backgrounds. Sarawak is often referred to as a model state for unity and racial and religious harmony in Malaysia. Following is an abridged version of Abang Johari’s speech at the earth-breaking ceremony for the Unifor Complex:

FIRSTLY, I would like to express my highest appreciation to Unifor for inviting me today to attend the earth-breaking ceremony, which would allow us to construct the Unifor Complex.

I congratulate all non-Islamic religious leaders as they will have a common platform to advance and promote religious understanding to their respective communities in an environment of peace and goodwill. Congratulations to all these religious leaders!

My partners in the Sarawak Cabinet and I have a common philosophy, that is, religion is a pillar for the people to adhere to a way of life and thus, have the discipline to face challenges that arise in our respective lives.

We have to understand the teachings of the respective religions. I do not want to speak of the theological aspects of religions, but there is one common thing among religions and that is everyone must have good character and serve God.

Therefore, the existence of a government is to encourage people to have that discipline and to serve the country and, above all, to serve God.

God told us all to be good and kind. He asked us to be fair to mankind. We have to be good to the environment, plants, animals, too.  

If you have leaders who care for the survival of mankind and also the surroundings, you are going to have a very good future.

This is the philosophy of all of us in the Cabinet. And because of that, I suggested we also took care of other religions. We established Unifor here as a place for religious leaders to gather and discuss non-Islamic religions and our way of life.

Our lives have changed. It is not like before; now you have social media. Sometimes, if you do not have very strong beliefs and faith, you can be influenced by social media and this has happened in other countries where religious beliefs seem to have been lost — never been to church, never been to houses of worship. This diverts from the core of civilisation, the core of humanity, the core of mankind.

That is why I feel all religions must have discipline and strive for God and mankind. That is why as leaders in Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), we hold steadfastly to this policy.

When I asked Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas “why don’t we have a building for them?” … everybody supported.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan supported, Utilities Minister Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom supported, Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian supported. Everybody supported.

With that common stance, today on Oct 20, 2020, we are here to start the new Unifor Complex.

Only four days ago, I officiated at the earth-breaking ceremony of a mosque costing about RM10 million in Belaga. Do you know who asked for that mosque? It was Datuk Liwan Lagang, Belaga assemblyman. He is not a Muslim but he said, ‘Let’s build a mosque in Belaga for the Muslim community’.

That is the beauty — a non-Muslim looking after the welfare of Muslims. Of course, we have built an RM10 million church also in Belaga. That is fair — RM10 million for a church and RM10 million for a mosque. We are fair.

That is the beauty of Sarawak and we must protect this beauty. 

Awang Tengah just mentioned to me that he had just approved an allocation for a church in Lawas as well. If this happened on the other side (Malaya)— a Muslim giving allocation to a church — it would be over. No chance to win the election.

Of course, we are not facing the election. Don’t worry, it is still far away.

The leaders over that side want to know how Unifor works. They came to see Uggah and see how we manage this multi-religious society in Sarawak.

Thank you for supporting me as chief minister. But what is important is we have collective responsibility and we must protect the harmonious relationship in Sarawak.

We have a target — by 2030, this state must be the most developed in Malaysia. When we have this sort of harmonious society, God will look at us and help us.

You would have never dreamed that we would get an extra income of RM3 billion from Petronas (Petroliam Nasional Berhad). But God is kind to us. We prayed, we fought, we won in our right to impose the State Sales Tax (SST).

That is why RM70 million for the Unifor Complex was no problem; it is a small portion of the amount that Petronas paid.

In all religions, it says that if you are charitable, God will acknowledge that.

I thank God I am quite healthy. I could even ride a motorbike from Sibu to Kapit even though I am 70 years old.

I was with the Dayak community just now. They are having their own building for the Dayak Cultural Foundation (DCF) and one building for the Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI).

This is the harmony we have and I hope we will work together for the future of Sarawak.

I pray to God so that He will always take care of us and grant us good health and rational thinking in facing future challenges.