Ho Leng promises to solve ‘Allah’ row
SIBU, May 9 — DAP candidate Wong Ho Leng today made solving the “Allah” issue as his major campaign message in the Sibu by-election.
“If elected, I will call upon the prime minister and home minister to immediately cease the legal dispute with the Christian churches over these matters to protect the freedom of religion in Malaysia for non-Muslims,” said Wong.
The Sarawak DAP chairman reiterated his party’s stand for Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Robert Lau to make his stand about the ban on non-Muslims using the word “Allah”.
“Lau cannot take an ambiguous stance on the Allah issue anymore, otherwise the people of Sibu, especially the non-Muslims will not trust Lau to speak up for them in Parliament,” the Bukit Assek assemblyman told a press conference here.
About 53 per cent of the 55,000 voters in the Sibu constituency are Christians.
The Chinese form about 66.6 per cent of the voters, the Christian Ibans 16.3 per cent, and the Malay/Melanau approximately 16.2 per cent.
“I urge Lau to stop running away from key issues which concerns the people of Sibu as well as all Malaysians,” said Wong.
“It is completely ridiculous that Lau blames Pakatan leaders for bringing ‘national issues’ into the by-election. It shows that Lau does not understand at all the role of a member of parliament,” he added.
Lau had said that the “Allah” row should not be brought into the campaign to avoid mixing politics and religion.
“Robert has squirmed from answering a simple question of whether the prohibition of the use of ‘Allah’ is a serious infringement on the rights of the people of Sarawak and Malaysian to the constitutionally guaranteed principle of freedom of religion for non-Muslims,” said Wong.
The issue started in 2007 after the Home Ministry invoked a 1986 Cabinet directive banning non-Muslims from using certain Arabic words when it refused to renew the publication permit of the Catholic tabloid Herald.
The Catholic Church later challenged the government’s decision, and on Dec 31 last year the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that Herald has the right to use the word “Allah” for its Malay section.
In January, Minister in the Prime Minister Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz assured the Christian community in Sabah and Sarawak that the ban on “Allah” would not affect them.
Christians in West Malaysia also continue to face problems with the distribution of religious materials in the national language.
DAP has mobilised its church-going leaders to convince Sibu Christians to back the party with at least two high profile meetings with the community involving DAP national leaders.
The by-election was called following the death of five-term MP and Deputy Transport Minister Robert Lau Hoi Chew early last month.
Campaigning began yesterday and polling has been set on May 16.