On Malaysia Day, Sarawak CM vows to reject any attempts against religious freedom

·3-min read
Sarawak Governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud (centre) on arrival for the Malaysia Day celebration at the Sarawak State Assembly Complex, September 16, 2021. — Picture by the State Information Department
Sarawak Governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud (centre) on arrival for the Malaysia Day celebration at the Sarawak State Assembly Complex, September 16, 2021. — Picture by the State Information Department

KUCHING, Sept 16 — Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg tonight made it clear that the state government will reject any bids that are contrary to religious freedom in the state.

He said the state government will continue to ensure that the welfare of other religions will always be nurtured, but did not elaborate more on the matter.

“We walk the talk,” the chief minister said at the Malaysia Day celebration held at the Sarawak State Assembly Complex here.

Abang Johari stressed that freedom of religion is enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

“To ensure that this right is guaranteed, the state government under Gabungan Parti Sarawak administration is a step ahead in implementing initiatives under Unit for Other Religions which has provided large allocations to non-Islamic religions,” he said.

This remark came amid a proposal by Putrajaya to table a Bill restricting the propagation of non-Muslim religions to Muslims.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob also recently said that his administration will revive and table the Bill seeking harsher punishments for Shariah offences, dubbed Act 355 or RUU355 in Malay.

The chief minister said many matters have not been implemented in accordance with the Federal Constitution and the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and should be brought to the negotiation table within a bigger Malaysian family.

He said since 2015 discussions had been held between the state and federal governments, and he hoped that the discussion on MA63 will be continued as being outlined under the recently signed bipartisan cooperation Memorandum of Understanding by the federal government and Pakatan Harapan (PH).

He said considerable achievements have been made since the discussions started in 2015 to reinstate state powers which had been eroded over the years back to the state or accord empowerment to the state in certain areas.

He said these include authorising state legal officers by the public prosecutor under the Criminal Procedure Code to conduct prosecution for offences under state ordinances from the stage a person is charged in the lower court until the appeal stage.

He said the other is increasing the number of posts in the Sarawak Immigration Department to improve the department’s enforcement functions in the state with the creation of 100 new posts and increasing the ratio of Sarawak-born teachers serving here to about 90 per cent of the total.

He said the state government will be consulted in the drafting of federal legislation which has bearing or impact on the state government of Sarawak, where provided by law, and the planning of federal development projects in Sarawak is to give priority to the five-year Sarawak State Development Plan based on the approved budget.

The chief minister also said that the state government is in discussions with the federal government to review the special grants accorded to Sarawak and Sabah, under Article 112D of the Federal Constitution.

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