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Sabah Council of Churches (SCC) has released a statement on 7 May 2016 in the wake of National Registration Department (NRD)’s objection to the Kuching High Court ruling in Roneey’s case.
The statement was made in consonance with the statements of the Association of Churches in Sarawak, the Christian Federation of Malaysia and the Kuching Ministers’ Fellowship’s made on the appeal by the NRD against the decision of the Kuching High Court in the case of Roneey anak Rebit.
Chairman of SCC Jerry Dusing said that SCC denounced the action of the NRD for its audacity in challenging the constitutional right of religious freedom of Roneey, while commending “the sensible actions of these Sarawak Islamic authorities”. Dusing was referring to the non-objection of both the Sarawak Islamic Religious Department and the Sarawak Islamic Council to the application by Roneey.
However, NRD has agreed to withdraw their appeal after the intervention of Tan Sri Adenan Satem in the midst of Sarawak’s election campaign. This turn of events, as pointed out by Dusing, clearly projected two things “firstly, the NRD which is an administrative arm of the federal government has no regard and respect of our religious freedom guaranteed under the Federal Constitution and the Malaysia Agreement 1963; and secondly, that our exercise of religious freedom is subject to political interference”.
The Malaysia Agreement 1963, explained Dusing, is an international treaty signed by five nations – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore – registered in the United Nations (Treaty Series No. 10760). The provision of the Federal Constitution and its implementation must be aligned with the Malaysia Agreement 1963. Therefore, any provision of our national law and any administrative action which are contrary to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 would be a breach of an international treaty.
More than it being unconstitutional, any attempt to restrict our religious freedom and re-engineer our demographics to a single religion is to transgress the international treaty of the Malaysia Agreement, said Dusing, “One of the pillar(s) and foundation of the formation of Malaysia is the guarantee of freedom of religion to Sabahans and Sarawakians.”
Dusing quoted from the Cobbold Commission Report of June 21, 1962 (Chapter 4, paragraph 148(e)(ii)) “…we are agreed that Islam should be the national religion for the Federation. We are satisfied that the proposal in no way jeopardizes freedom of religion in the Federation, which in effect would be secular.” These are the expressions of the true aspirations and intent of Malaysia as a secular polity, which is also guaranteed by our Federal Constitution.
Rebit’s case is a clear reflection of many of our people’s plight, highlighted Dusing. “In Sabah, many of our people’s sense of identity have been affected, time wasted, liberties damaged, and happiness robbed by fraudulent conversions and the insistence of the NRD in its stand as in this case.”
Speaking for Sabah Council of Churches, Dusing calls upon the Federal and all State governments to undertake a serious reform on all the relevant legal procedures “to alleviate the deep concerns and anxieties” of the Christian community in Malaysia, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, who have in recent years struggled to navigate the ambiguous and uncertain state of the law on religious freedom.
For the sake of religious harmony and national unity, Dusing emphasised, “It is time for reforms to be implemented respecting and in accordance with the Report on the Inter-Governmental Committee 1962 and Malaysia Agreement 1963.”