YAB Perdana Menteri,
As we approach Malaysia Day this year, we see dark clouds gathering over the Land Below the Wind. Our right to our cherished freedom of religion is being threatened once again.
We appeal to you to act immediately to curb yet another attempt to introduce more Shariah laws, one of which is aimed at curbing the rights of non-Muslim religions. This is unacceptable as it strikes at the very core of freedom of religion for all as enshrined in our Federal Constitution.
The proposed laws were not even discussed in your cabinet and your coalition partners have indicated that they too object to this move.
In your first speech as PM recently, you called for a common ground to build a Keluarga Malaysia that cuts across religious, racial and ethnic boundaries. We commend you for that.
Yet within days, a junior deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs), YB Ustaz Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, was quoted by Harakah, the mouth piece of PAS, that the four new Shariah laws are being drafted by your government, including a bill on control and restrictions on the development of non-Muslim religions.
Ustaz Ahmad has not withdrawn his announcement neither have you taken him to task for his audacity to try to undermine your Keluarga Malaysia proposal as well as the Constitution as supreme law of the nation.
YAB Perdana Menteri, we urge you to consider that the move by your deputy minister may even be unconstitutional as Islam comes under the jurisdiction of the respective Sultans and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and not under the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs).
The proposed new Shariah laws are unpopular.
Sabah is against any proposal that will restrict the freedom of religion of its people, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor was quoted as saying on 9 Sept
He said that the state government holds firmly to the principle of religious freedom as declared in the Federal Constitution and the Malaysian Agreement 1963.
We commend our Chief Minister for his stand: “Sabah is a state with people of many cultures and religions who have lived in peace and harmony all this while. Even with so many differing beliefs, we respect each other’s culture without problem.”
Other Sabah-based parties have all rejected the concept of such a Bill that they said is unconstitutional.
The MCCBCHST interfaith group also reminded the deputy minister that the basic structure of the Constitution does not allow for a Theocratic Islamic State for Malaysia.
Likewise, the Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) has reiterated the stance of YAB Chief Minister of Sarawak, and those of the Sarawak political leaders who have consistently rejected any introduction of laws which would undermine or destroy the harmony among races and communities in Sarawak and Malaysia.
It is often said that those who forget their history forfeit their destiny. Let us remember that Sabah together with Sarawak only agreed to the formation of Malaysia in 1963 as equal partners to Malaya only if Malaya agreed to what is known as the 20-Point Memorandum to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (or MA63).
Sarawak submitted an 18-Point memo.
Point 1: Religion
“While there was no objection to Islam being the national religion of Malaysia, there should be no State religion in North Borneo (as Sabah was then known), and the provisions relating to Islam in the present Constitution of Malaya should not apply to North Borneo.”
For Sabah this is a covenant worthy to be carved in stone, lest anyone forget.
It was on 31 August 1964, that the Keningau Oath Stone (Batu Sumpah) was unveiled and officiated by the Federal Minister of Labor, V. Manickavasagam, and witnessed by state officials and community leaders and other traditional native chiefs.
The oath was made between the Federation of Malaysia and the people of interior Sabah led by GS Sundang and his elder brother OKK Sodomon Bin Gunsanad.
The three sworn promises are – freedom of religion in Sabah, land matters in the state to be the absolute jurisdiction of the Sabah government, and that the federal government will undertake to preserve the customs and traditions of the people of Sabah. In return, the people of the interior districts of Sabah will swear their allegiance towards the Federation of Malaysia.
YAB Perdana Menteri, let it be said that this oath was soon forgotten and even broken.
On 25 Sept 1973, ten years after the formation of Malaysia, the Sabah state constitution was amended by making “Islam the religion of the State; but other religions maybe practiced in peace and harmony in any part of the State.” (Article 5A)
Further under Article 5B (1): “The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall be the Head of the religion of Islam in the State.”
The rest is history. Waves of Islamization followed by way of intimidation, inducement and even “administrative” conversions.
Native Christians in Sabah continue to be “converted to Islam” by the National Registration Department (NRD) simply because they have “bin” and “binti” in their names.
YAB Perdana Menteri, rest assured we too like to embrace your idea of Keluarga Malaysia, where in your own words, we can all be in one big happy family that cuts across religious, racial and ethnic boundaries.
Sadly this won’t happen until we, the Anak Sulung, or First Born of the land, can feel like we are all equal with our cousins in Malaya.
Far from it, we are fast becoming strangers in our own land with erosion of our birth rights to freedom of religion.
(Perpaduan Anak Negeri Sabah (PAN Sabah) is a community based stagnation in Sabah, East Malaysia. PAN was birth out of an idea in 2009 to rally the Anak Negeri of Sabah (Natives of Sabah) to reconcile and unite. On 15 September 2015, it was registered as a Non-Governmental Organization under the Trustees (Incorporation) Ordinance Cap. 146 Sabah.)