AG Should Explain Why Journalists Not Prosecuted: Pakiam

The Attorney-General should explain why he decided not to prosecute two Al-Islam reporters for desecrating a Catholic rite, said Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam.

"I appeal to the Attorney-General to explain the decision not to take further action in the Al-Islam journalists' case. An explanation should be given to the complainants and clarification to the church authorities," said Pakiam, who referred to the incident last year.

"It appears the instructions of no further action implies and conveys the message that no crime has been committed, despite an admission by the journalist that they had desecrated the Holy Communion. There are sufficient provisions in the Penal Code for this purpose," he added.

Pakiam said the Catholic Lawyers Society, Kuala Lumpur had sent a memorandum to the Home Minister on Aug 27 last year on the matter but no action had been taken since.

However he said that at present, the church will not take further action on the matter.

"We have to wait and see, and take it step by step to see what has to be done. A civil suit is one line of action, but there is also dialogue with the authorities, to rely on their goodwill to understand the feelings of our community," said Pakiam.

"There is also the human approach, to bring the feelings of our community to the attention of the public," he added.

In May 2009, two reporters, including a Muhd Ridwan Abdul Jalil @ Erwanz from the Malay-language magazine 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 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.

In a statement, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said the reporters had acted through "sheer ignorance".

He said the police investigation had revealed that they had gone to St Anthony's Church at Puduraya to verify allegations that Muslims were being converted into Christianity and the use of the word "Allah". Their observations showed that such allegations were not true.

He said the reporters were given the Communion "which they subsequently brought back to their office".

"It was further disclosed that they did not know the significance of the (Communion)," he said. "No disturbance was caused in the church. In fact, no one in the church was aware that they were Malays.

"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. It was an act of sheer ignorance.

"Therefore, in view of the circumstances at that particular time and in the interest of justice, peace and harmony, I decided not to press any charges against them."

Gani said he had previously decided similarly in other cases where the circumstances were quite similar involving other religions. Under those circumstances, taking a serious action would not be in the interest of justice at that particular time. 

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