AG Should Appreciate Severity Of Al-Islam Incident: Catholic Lawyers Society

The Attorney-General should "appreciate the severity" of the conduct of two reporters of a Malay-language periodical who had allegedly desecrated the holy eucharist of the Catholic church and not dismiss their actions off-hand, said Catholic Lawyers Society, Kuala Lumpur, president Mabel Sabastian.

"Ignorance of the law is no defence in the commission of a crime. The A-G as the guardian of our laws must foremost appreciate the severity of the acts and conducts of the offender, particularly bearing in mind the severity of the issues involved in a multiracial society like ours," she said.

Sabastian's statement was in response to the one released yesterday by AG Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who said he did not give the order to prosecute the two journalists as they had committed the act of out of "sheer ignorance".

"The actions of the two reporters may have hurt the feelings of the people but I was satisfied that they did not intend to offend anyone," he had said.

Sabastian pointed out that the two journalists from the Malay-language magazine Al-Islam "should know the limits and boundaries of their actions" in seeking stories.

"Investigative journalism does not give them carte blanche to do as they wish. The journalists ought to have known full well the significance of the Holy Communion as they participated in a Bahasa Malaysia Mass, in which the description of the white bread as the Body of Christ is repeated many times."

In the mass, the consecrated "white bread" is transformed into the body of Christ. It can only be consumed by baptised and practising Catholics, something that is always mentioned during mass just before the holy eucharist is distributed.

Sabastian said the A-G must surely appreciate the scope and applicability of the sedition and criminal laws of Malaysia and called on him to act "without fear or favour".

"By failing to take action. the A-G has downplayed the significance and importance placed on this sacred specie by the Catholic community. He further overlooks that the laws are put in place as a deterrent to all from committing such incidents in future," she said.

In May 2009, two reporters, including a Muhd Ridwan Abdul Jalil @ Erwanz from Al-Islam wrote an article on their attempts to investigate a rumour that Malay youths were converting to Catholicism.

Though their report states that the allegations were untrue, the two had taken the Holy Communion wafer given to them and then spat it out and photographed it.

This prompted a police report by a Catholic, KS Sudhagaran Stanley against the two under Section 298A (1) of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will, or prejudicing the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion.

If found guilty, an offender can be sentenced to jail for a period of between two and five years.

This report was subsequently dismissed by the A-G's Chambers as requiring "no further action", and the announcement was made through the Dang Wangi police station on Feb 25.

The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam had in a statement yesterday said although the church would not press for further action against the reporters for now, a public apology would suffice to ease the feelings of the Catholic community. However, he said, that has not been forthcoming.


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