Ongkili: Open-hearted Talk Can Help Resolve Stamping Issue

An open-hearted dialogue between church leaders and the Home Ministry will help resolve the issue of stamping the copies of Bahasa Malaysia Bible, said Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili, who was formerly the minister in charge of national unity.

Dr Ongkili said although the ideal situation was to leave copies of the Bahasa Malaysia Bible unmarked, the content was more important.

“The perfect situation is to leave it unmarked. But if the authorities say we must, then the best way is to discuss with the Home Minister and work out the arrangement in detail,” he said yesterday.

Dr Ongkili said churches had differing views on the stamping, with some opposing while others were okay with it.

He said the stamping would not affect his faith as the content was more important.

“Personally, I accept the Government’s decision on stamping. It is not a matter of agreeing but accepting. Sometimes, I even read a Bible without a cover. But I respect all the Christian views in the matter,” he said.

Dr Ongkili, who is Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, said it was the Government’s desire to promote religious freedom and that there should be freedom to enhance knowledge and desire for it as provided for under the Federal Constitution.

He said the absence of guidelines on the implementation of the 1982 gazette under the Internal Security Act, which allows limited and controlled importation and circulation of copies of Bible in Bahasa Malaysia, at the country’s entry points could have resulted in confusion.

“There is no problem in Sabah and Sarawak. But an absence of a guideline means that different officers can implement things differently,” he said.

He said Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein may be meeting church leaders this week, adding that dialogue was the best way.

“I pray for a solution that is acceptable to the majority,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Lawyers’ Society has condemned the ministry’s actions and conditions for the release of the impounded copies as “unconstitutional”.

“The acts are nothing more than reducing the rights of each person and religious group as entrenched in the Federal Constitution,” said president Joy Appukuttan in a statement, adding that marking or serialising the Holy Book was also disrespectful.

Christian leaders had refused to collect the 5,100 copies of the AlKitab (Bible) impounded in Port Klang due to the stamping of the Home Ministry’s official seal and labelled with serial numbers.

Hishammuddin had said the stamping was done by the ministry itself as the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) had wanted a quicker release of the Bibles.

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