International Muslim-Christian dialogue “postponed” — strange, stranger and strangest

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said yesterday that the international Muslim-Christian dialogue — the Building Bridges seminar — organized by the London office of the Archbishop of Canterbury has not been cancelled but postponed.

He said it was postponed because he had to attend to some urgent matters that coincided with the seminar which was scheduled for May 7-11, 2007.

Abdullah said he did not want the inter-religious conference to proceed without him.

He said: “I have an important role to play in the conference and I don’t want it to be held when I am not around.” The government would have to find another suitable date for the international inter-religious dialogue.

The events and circumstances surrounding the “postponement’ had been strange, stranger and strangest.

Strange because when news first broke in London Times on Thursday that there had been a “last-minute cancellation” of the international Muslim-Christian dialogue in Malaysia, nobody knew its reason despite numerous attempts by various persons and bodies responsible for organizing it to seek explanation from the authorities. The Building Bridges conference was cancelled with just a short two-week notice although it was mooted a year ago causing great disruptions as many international participants had finalized their flight arrangements.

For instance, in the Malaysiakini report on Friday, 11th May 2007, “‘Confusion’ reigns in interfaith meet ban”, the general secretary of Council of Churches of Malaysia, Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri said that “we are as much confused as the organisers of the London office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as to the sudden withdrawal of the endorsement and support by the Malaysian authorities for holding the Building Bridges seminar in Kuala Lumpur.”

Professor Emeritus Dr Osman Bakar, who had been appointed to be among the prime movers in Malaysia of the inter-faith conference, said that the authorities were passing the buck on the cancellation of the Building Bridges conference with nobody willing to take responsibility, with him being passed from one office to another in his search for answers behind the cancellation.

Osman Bakar was pushed from pillar to post, from the Prime Minister’s Department to the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM), without anybody able to give him an official reason.

This is strange because if the inability of the Prime Minister to attend the conference was the cause of the “postponement” of the interfaith conference, the question is why no one who had been involved in organizing the Building Bridges Conference had been informed of the perfectly legitimate reason.

Furthermore, why wasn’t the organizers informed beforehand instead of having the conference cancelled in the last-minute with only two weeks’ notice.

Stranger because when I raised the issue of the last-minute cancellation of the international Muslim-Christian Conference in Parliament on Thursday night, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr. Maximus Ongkili had nothing to say as clearly he knew nothing about it although he is a member of the Cabinet.

Strangest because no date has yet been fixed for the “postponed” international Muslim-Christian dialogue. This is really unthinkable, raising questions about the Prime Minister’s seriousness in “walking the talk” to promote inter-religious dialogue in international forums.

  1. #1 by Unladen Swallow on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 3:48 pm

    Heh. It sounds just like me telling my friends that they can’t play football because I won’t be there to play. Except that I’d probably get the finger, and well, Pak Dol gets the international version of it.

  2. #2 by mendela on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 3:53 pm

    The UMO-led Government does not know what is the norm of international rules and laws in conducting International events. What is promised to the world we must do our best to honour it.

    This idiot Government thinks that such events are just similar to an UMO branch meeting, it can be cancelled or postponed as they wish in the very last minutes.

    It is plain bodoh!

  3. #3 by Loh on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 4:08 pm

    ///Abdullah said he did not want the inter-religious conference to proceed without him.///

    It means that he does not have a person he could trust to attend on his behalf. His deputy is not equipped for the job.

    AAB considered that that meeting is too important to miss, and it would be too late for him to attned next year, if he does not participate in it this year. Was there some specific position the conference should take this year, but too late if taken next year? Was it because AAB considered that he might not be PM next year?

    I believe AAB acts on public opinion among the Malays, and he follows rather than leads.

  4. #4 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 4:18 pm

    Lets even assume that the excuse given is true. Why does it not sound an alarm that a proper explanation was not given when the cancellation was done? It can only mean that despite his words, subconsiously the PM don’t think it that important. More importantly he does not see the deep intensity of feelings of Malaysian on this issue i.e., he is out-of-touch, not really aware.

    So what is scarier? That the Malaysian government particularly those responsible for religious matter think so too. This apathy is institutionalized and pervasive.

    There is no point for the PM to attend this conference as he has never proven to be able to make institutional change. Well, he should attend for himself but frankly, its pointless for any other reason. I seriously doubt he will learn much given his intellectual disabilities.

  5. #5 by grace on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 4:32 pm

    “Abdullah said he did not want the inter-religious conference to proceed without him.

    He said: “I have an important role to play in the conference and I don’t want it to be held when I am not around.”

    Hey Pak Lah, when did you become so responsible?
    Remember when Johore was inundated by massive flood, you choose to fly to Perth to attend the opening of Nasi Kandar restaurant. You could beseen smiling gleefully while helping yourself to nasi kandar. By your look , your hear and soul was so distant from the suffering of those flood victim.

    Come on, do not try to show that you care! Those who voted for you must be a mistake. You have been labelled with so many uncalled for names and yet you just could not care less. What type of PM you are!!!

  6. #6 by k1980 on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 4:47 pm


    “…satu strategi (gerakan) sedang diatur bagi mengadakan undi tidak percaya ke atas kepimpinan Abdullah. Dalam erti kata lain akan berlaku coup d’etat – rampas kuasa di dalam Umno dan juga Barisan Nasional menerusi undi tidak percaya kepada Abdullah.” Possible?

  7. #7 by Tai Lo Chin on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 5:02 pm

    The Building Bridges Global Interfaith Seminar, scheduled for May 7-11, was organized at least more than 6 months ago. If Pak Lah were serious that he wanted to attend because “I have an important role to play in the conference and I don’t want it to be held when I am not around” I am sure he would be welcomed and would have made known to the organizers months ago to schedule on a mutually convenient date.

    The last minute “postponement” (for accommodation of a convenient date on the PM’s diary) is plain incredible or unreasonable. Are the thirty world-renowned Islamic and Christian scholars and theologians who already fixed their schedules to meet here on May 7-11 to change their schedules for one man (who wanted to be fitted in two weeks before the actual meet)?

    Some of the scholars might not be able to make it even assuming the PM gave a new date. It appears like this is an effective way to put a spanner in the whole works.

    I think a leader has to be forthright and decisive. He should not listen to other quarters telling him that the Building Bridges seminar should not be held.

    If he chooses to take their advice, then he should own up and declare so. He should not prevaricate; dare not have the seminar and yet dare not show it and come out last minute with an excuse like that to the inconvenience of 30 others so that the objective of appeasing certain quarters by not having the seminar is achieved and yet, at the same time, not suffer the flak and responsibility of owing up for it.

    Leadership is courage and the willingness to stand by one’s decision. Don’t show that, no one will follow or respect you.

  8. #8 by Libra2 on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 5:08 pm

    Mr Clean has picked up the art of lying. The only thing is, he has not done a very good job at it, this time around.
    By giving his reasons now, he is simply telling them that he has no respect for them.
    Now, who is going to compensate the participants for the loss incurred in cancelled flights and hotel bookings.

  9. #9 by Screw BN on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 5:23 pm

    I smell a rat. A big fat Keris-wielding rat. Too many things point to some radical elements within UMNO (the national facist government of Malaysiastan) creating discord and acting unilaterally to smear. discredit and stifle the moderate elements within UMNO and propogating their ultra-religious/sharia ideology amongst Malaysia’s muslims by force in defiance of a weak and helpless leadership from Pak (tidak apa) Lah.
    It’s time for a change. It is imperative we all vote for a change before this beloved country that we were born in turns into Afganistan or Turkmenistan.

  10. #10 by Godfather on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 5:27 pm

    Building Bridges ? UMNO can’t tolerate building bridges because it is not in its interest to do so.

    There is this person who goes under the handle “Azimi” who wrote the following in Malaysia Today:

    “….I don’t deny I am a racist but I am only defending my race. Khairy said it’s OK to be racist so long as one defends his race and religion. In fact all of us are racists, aren’t you guys defending your race, religion and turf?

    ….If I am PM I make this country an Islamic State and make everything else a Malay First policy. I know this way will cause many of you to leave but that’s precisely our aim. The sooner you buggers get out the faster we achieve our aim. I don’t care if this country goes back to the stone age because life here is just a transition, it’s the hereafter that’s important. All of us muslims will go to heaven and will be justly rewarded. As for you people I am sorry….”

    Now some of you may say that this is a minority position within UMNO but I don’t think so. If it was a clear-cut minority, then UMNO leaders would have openly condemned this view, but they don’t. Talking to some politicians within UMNO, I detect a growing groundswell in favour of this position, but they cannot openly support this because it would mean the end of BN and the end of parties like MCA and MIC.

  11. #11 by Rocky on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 5:57 pm

    This not available is a spin that was thought later. Now can Pak lah tell us what is so important that he has to make last minute change to his schedule. I thought PM schedules are well planned and book ahead of time. Truth I guess is Pak Lah has decided to bail out cos of pressure and this postponement is forever.

  12. #12 by undergrad2 on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 6:38 pm

    We keep forgetting that this PM perceives himself as the 9th Malay sultan; he leaves matters like this to his deputy and “those below him” to plan and execute government (read: UMNO) policies. He stays aloof and would ‘intervene’ only when matters ‘get out of control’.

    Nobody wants to face his wrath if he is unnecessarily woken up to clarify anything.

    This leaves ‘those below him’ and his deputy to work out things for themselves. ‘Those below him apparently have been left to speculate on what the old man wants; and when they could not decide, nobody wants to be left holding the ball.

    Is this the kind of management style the head of the executive branch of the country says is his??

    Where does this put the ‘meddling through’ style of management?
    Abdullah is more of an absconder than anything else. His Administration continues to be chaotic with no one in clear control whilst his deputy continues to play politics with management.

  13. #13 by fm2 on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 6:57 pm

    meaning that everything need to be cancelled due to his cannot attend? a football match cannot go on because the substitute cannot come? what a joke. a substitute will always said he has an important role on it, yeah… sit on the ‘COLD CHAIR’

  14. #14 by undergrad2 on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 7:13 pm

    “Talking to some politicians within UMNO, I detect a growing groundswell in favour of this position, but they cannot openly support this because it would mean the end of BN and the end of parties like MCA and MIC.” Godfather

    I think you are looking at UMNO politics through the eyes of a western educated and trained individual. Your analysis would be accurate if seen through a ‘fixed’ perspective. It is not so when it comes to Malay politics and as ‘practiced’ within UMNO.

    It is normal during a period of uncertainty, when matters are in a state of flux, to mistake something as a ‘groundswell’ for the real thing. Malay politicians are much like a chameleon as they trade personal loyalties for promises of rewards later on. This constant jockeying and elbowing for space is, I submit, what is often mistaken for a general movement towards ‘change’ within the party.

    Now it is undeniable that Islamists within their fold have been flexing their muscles for some time now. But UMNO has developed a ‘mechanism’ to filter out systems of beliefs and values which their leaders know would not get popular support among the general population. This is a gradual process.

    Putting your ears to the ground would make you run for cover as the noises you hear tells you that there is a stampede approaching. Talking to their leaders on a one-to-one basis would tell you that the stampede you hear is just ‘their way of taking care of business’.

  15. #15 by sheriff singh on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 7:24 pm

    Nobody in the government knows what the heck is going on. And when things go wrong, nobody too wants to accept responsibility nor can they identify who is responsible. Thats how our government is running this country. We flounder here and there. We have no direction but let the tide take us anywhere, we are rudderless.

    Heck the PM was around and available from 7-11 as can be seen in the papers. What are the “urgent matters” that had cropped up that he had to attend to? Why did he give this important international dialogue so little attention and importance that it can be postponed at short notice and great inconvenience to all and sundry, only God knows.

    Was the PM planning to attend the full 5 days? Was it because he was not asked to open the conference or present any papers? Was it a snub to the Archbishop of Canterbury the head of the world’s Anglican Church who had taken pains to plan his first trip here?

    Now he wants to make amends but hey its kinda late and unconvincing. The damage is already done. Malaysia Tak Boleh.

  16. #16 by smeagroo on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 8:01 pm

    reason pak tipu helah cancelled it is bcos he wont be around. can someone find out where he will be on those dates? Going to Perth again or Turkey to see yacht?

  17. #17 by ahkok1982 on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 8:32 pm

    i juz cant believe how stupid e ppl in bn r… after so many years of doing e same (lying) thing over n over again, they still cant become good at it.
    first, tell a lie… then there r follow up lies to cover up e previous lies. wat aab is doing here is lie n then hope tt things cool down… oh how stupid!!!

  18. #18 by undergrad2 on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 9:07 pm

    What has the PM got to say about the ‘coup’ staged on May 13, 1969?

  19. #19 by bbtan on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 9:44 pm

    I would advice the PM not to say anything about the “coup”. He might make a fool of himself. Remember that time when he asked LKY to explain the “Chinese in Malaysia are being marginalized” statement?

  20. #20 by sammyvellu on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 9:46 pm

    Bludawi did not get the go ahead from Khari to attend this meeting. That’s why its postponed!

  21. #21 by ihavesomethingtosay on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 10:18 pm

    Is he busy opening up another Nasi Kandar shop somewhere again?

    Building Bridge conference, welcome to Malaysia, you mightn’t have been informed about the postponed, take it or leave it, this just another side to the daily hassle we Malaysians faced, now you will go tell your countrymen who’s the biggest Napoleon in Malaysia.

    :) I say “welldone” BN government, for showing the world your true colour.

  22. #22 by Jonny on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 11:01 pm

    The Perth nasi kandar already bungkus (

    Hence, don’t think is going to Perth.

    It’s a saving grace LAH

  23. #23 by sean on Sunday, 13 May 2007 - 11:08 pm

    Our country are being steered towards a dangerous path.Religous extremist are slowly but surely creeping into the administration of the govt.What happen when religion are mixed with govt administration?All i can think of is disaster in a matter of time.
    Umno have got all the time they want………..and time is what other component parties doesn’t have when population of other races are dwindling.Soon………Umno may even tell the other component parties to “go fly kite” as the need for them will be obsolete in time to come.Don’t the other component parties leader knows about this…well they sure know but its only the grassroots members are being led blindly for their self interest.

  24. #24 by DarkHorse on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 5:36 am

    “He said: “I have an important role to play in the conference and I don’t want it to be held when I am not around.” The government would have to find another suitable date for the international inter-religious dialogue.”

    What is it that this guy does not understand?!!!

    Does he not understand that if there are more urgent matters for him to attend to, he can always nominate his deputy to attend. Does this guy think he’s indispensable? It is not about him officiating the opening of the Conference. Or is he so plain stupid not to know that besides the inconvenience caused to the participants, the organizer could be sued for breach of contract. Airline tickets would have been purchased and hotel reservations made.

  25. #25 by Tai Lo Chin on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 6:28 am

    “What has the PM got to say about the ‘coup’ staged on May 13, 1969?” – Undergrad2

    He has said nothing so far. He could say nothing. Do you expect him to say this – “Yes I now concede that the entire premise of the NEP structured on Malay discontent of economic disparities between them and other races resulting in May 13 riot was baseless and just an excuse for the coup plotters/stagers to usurp power from the Tunku and consolidate it around this central theme at the expense of the others and at the expense of dividing the nation to the polarised state it is in today?

    I don’t think so.

  26. #26 by ahkok1982 on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 7:25 am

    well, let’s juz say tt e international participants r suckers juz as most malaysians are n do take it as juz a postponement n come back maybe 2 weeks later n aab does participate in e talks… would aab sleep during e conference? tt would b a v funny scene.

  27. #27 by k1980 on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 7:47 am

    From sleeping pm to fainting pm

    LUMUT, May 13 (Bernama) — “I am well. Don’t worry,” said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, refuting a claim spread through the Internet that he had fainted while attending a people’s feast at the launching of the Hadhari Square in Teluk Batik here Sunday afternoon.

    “I will continue with the programmes that been arranged for me,” he told reporters here Sunday night.

    “The doctor had conducted several tests on me including ECG, blood and blood pressure and these were found to be normal,” added Abdullah who was examined by his personal physician Dr Sanjiv Joshi.

    Earlier when presenting the keys to nine recipients of houses built under the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BNBBC) community service programme, at the people’s feast, Abdullah appeared to be losing balance and almost collapsed but was held by Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali and BNBBC acting chairman Datuk Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Omar.

  28. #28 by hawaiichee on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 9:54 am

    If Pak Lah gave this excuse in the USA, he will be ridiculed for such a stupid answer. Its better to blame IKIM or someone else than for the PM to say he had to postpone it. If he can not attend it, then he as a leader should have delegated the duty to someone and apologise for his absence. But, postponing the whole international event due to him is a stupid excuse and no one will buy this.

    So postpone F1, SUKMA and other important events too?

  29. #29 by FuturePolitician on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 10:51 am

    Many of our Politicians only knows about their own coconut shell. I have always supported Dr.M for his great vision to bring the country into the international arena. His vision look east ” has brought many Japanese investors into Malaysia, which propelled us to industrialized Nation”

    Now, our current PM think this is a SMALL matter and has postpone the event???

    NO MATTER HOW BIG A COUNTRIES ECONOMY, How well any countries is doing, FAITH or BELIEVES is the Utmost important Event Ever!!

    Many war starts due to this…

    Abdullah, just dont realize how big this is..he thinks that just because it is being held in Malaysia, he can just brush it aside. Sometimes, you need to drop everthing else and attend to this very publicized event. This discussion COULD create peace around the world..

    Elect me…your FuturePolitician..

  30. #30 by Jimm on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 11:29 am

    MIHAS just been launched and you all expect this event to go back to back with it. Ha Ha Ha ….
    The organizing Chairman just ‘spoken’ so much about Malaysia as the ideal hub and mega potential for global market ….
    They have draft out the master plan to those ‘interested’ parties to reap their ‘investments’ both short terms and long terms …
    Jangan kasi rosak dis orang punya plan .. la

  31. #31 by Cinapek on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 11:33 am

    To begin with, the man cannot even tell a lie convincingly.

    He said: “I have an important role to play in the conference and I don’t want it to be held when I am not around.” What does he think he is going to do? Participate in the debates? Is he intellectually competent enough to engage those internationally known religious figures?

    Postpone? Just like he postponed the IPCMC? To Eternity? His minders must have realised he could be in for an international shellacking if the dialogue is to proceed so they have pushed to call it off at the last minute. Sheesh!!!

  32. #32 by Anti_NEP on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 12:12 pm

    I don’t think it makes any diffrence with his presence in the conference. Afterall he has got not enough sleep and he may just doze off halfway thorough the conference. ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz!

  33. #33 by sheriff singh on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 12:57 pm

    Did the interfaith dailogue clash with UMNO’s anniversary celebrations? Would UMNO members have raise hue and cry about it, perhaps even demonstrate?

    Still till today, WHO was the one who ordered the cancellation or “postponement” and on whose orders? The PM? The Cabinet? The 4th Floor boys? Some smart aleck junior lackey?

  34. #34 by Jimm on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 1:01 pm

    Well, we can go online with broadband to facilitate this event. We should held this conference in Indonesia and broadcast back to Malaysia to broadband. That’s interesting !!! Don’t you all think so ..

  35. #35 by ahkok1982 on Monday, 14 May 2007 - 6:49 pm

    liar liar pants on fire….
    Well, if it is a postponement, then let’s then lets ask bodohwi when it will b rescheduled to….
    does he have another date for this event?
    what is this other matter that he needs to attend to?
    does he really need to personally attend this dialog?
    what is his role in this dialog and why does he think he needs to b there personally n cant juz send someone there?

  36. #36 by lakshy on Tuesday, 15 May 2007 - 4:24 am

    It’s better that the building bridges conference be held somewhere else that is a true democracy…..perhaps India and get good people to speak (aab cant even speak to convince a mule). They can invite malaysian panelists to speak and present the case in malaysia. No point giving face to aab or malaysia for what they have done.

    Proceed with the conference elsewhere!

  37. #37 by accountability on Friday, 18 May 2007 - 7:28 pm

    aab has all his priorities wrong all the time, this is one good example

    other infamous ones: attending nasi kandar launch in australia while johor folks suffer floods…

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