by V. Anbalagan
The Malaysian Insider
October 21, 2013
There appears to be a conscious effort by Putrajaya to dilute the Court of Appeal ruling on the Allah issue, an approach driven by fear of losing further support among East Malaysians, say constitutional lawyers.
Speaking to The Malaysian Insider, the lawyers said Putrajaya was in “damage control” mode as the Court of Appeal ruling had far-reaching implications, having caused an uproar among non-Muslims.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak told an audience in Sabah that East Malaysian Christians are free to use the word Allah in their worship and publications, including the Al-Kitab, which is the Bahasa Malaysia bible.
Earlier, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur that even Christians in Peninsular Malaysia can use the word freely in their services in church.
Later in the Parliament lobby, Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the ban on the word Allah only applied to the Catholic weekly, Herald, and no other publications.
Lawyers pointed out that all these statements by Barisan Nasional leaders today, made a week after the contentious Court of Appeal decision, also showed that Putrajaya was back-tracking in a desperate effort to score political points.
“The statements today were to pacify Christians all over the country that they could practice their faith as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.
“But they cannot run away from the ruling which had far-reaching implications,” said lawyer Edmund Bon (pic).
Bon said Christians could not use the word Allah as the court had ruled that it was not part of their faith and practice.
“The judgment has gone further than what was intended and it was due to submissions made by Putrajaya,” he said, adding that it is clear that the decision affected Christians in East Malaysia.
He pointed out that the ruling has also nullified the 10-point solution that allowed the Al-Kitab to use the word Allah,” he said.
Lawyer Karpal Singh said his observation also pointed that government leaders were attempting to give a “different complexion” to the ruling.
“This is going against the grain of the Court of Appeal judgment. They have to accept the ruling as of now,” he said.
Karpal said they should not contradict the judgment and further confuse the public.
Datuk Bastion Pius Vendargon said the leaders were coming on record a week after the court ruling because the issue had attracted wide publicity internationally.
“They are speaking up now to paint a rosy picture that the government is accomodating to the Christians,” he said.
Vendargon also said the ruling had serious implications as the Home Minister could now ban any non-Muslim publication that used the word on grounds of national security and public security.
Lawyer K. Shanmuga said politicians from the ruling government were now speaking up because of fear of losing support from Christians.
“Only now, they want to assure Malaysians that a dominant religion cannot impose its will on minority religions,” he said.
However, Shanmuga said the ruling had paved the way for Islamic religious authorities to take action against non-Muslims for using the word.
“They can rely on the Court of Appeal decision to restraint non-Muslims from using the word,” he added. – October 21, 2013.