Monday, November 30, 2009

Biro Tata Negara, Sabah and Sarawak

There has been much debate in the press lately about the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) course. The BTN course is supposedly aimed at creating patriotism among civil servants and students of public universities.

BTN made the news recently when the Selangor state government barred all of its civil servants from attending the BTN course. Many opposition leaders also slammed the BTN for indoctrinating participants with racist propaganda that only serve to divide Malaysians.

Many leaders gave their views and finally Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Nazri Abdul Aziz admitted that the BTN needs to be revamped in order to promote a united Malaysia.

Unfortunately there seem to be little or no opinion at all from leaders of both Sabah and Sarawak. This is saddening. The leaders of Sabah and Sarawak should make their voices audible to the general public so that the people know that they are concerned as leaders of the people.

Any revamp of the BTN course too should include modules on the formation of Malaysia. Participants must know of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 signed between the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, Singapore and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Participants must also know of events leading to the agreement such as the Inter-Governmental Committee and the Cobbold Commission as well as the reactions of the peoples of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore at that time.

Thirdly, they must also know of the 20-point condition imposed by Sabah and the 18-point condition imposed by Sarawak for Malaysia to be formed. Participants must also be made aware of certain articles of the Federal Constitution that are not applicable in Sabah and Sarawak.

Fourthly, participants must also be introduced to the cultures and religions of indigenous Sabahans and Sarawakians.

Only when participants truly know their own country can the BTN claim itself to be an instrument to inculcate patriotism.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Allowing Conversion or Giving Recognition to Religious Status?

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism,Sikhism and Taoism (MBCCHST) has urged the authorities to allow S.Banggarma, an ethnic Indian girl from Penang to convert out of Islam (see

It seems that Banggarma is a Hindu girl who was raised in an orphanage in Kedah. During her stay at the orphanage, she was converted to Islam. At the age of 15, she ran away from the centre and reverted to her faith of Hinduism. Later she married a Hindu man according to Hindu rites and bore two children. However her marriage is not legally recognized by the Malaysian government as according to her national registration records, she is officially a Muslim.

And according to Malaysian law, a Muslim cannot enter into a marriage according to non-Islamic religious rites. This has resulted in both her children having birth certificates without their father's name. This is awkward however as there are no provisions in the Birth and Registration Act saying a marriage must be legal for a birth certificate to have the child's father's name on it.

However, going back to what the MCCBCHST had said, we can conclude thet the MCCBCHST's demand for Banggarma to be allowed to convert out of Islam is not appropriate. This is because Banggarma is NOT A MUSLIM. She is a Hindu. All she wants is for the National Registration Department to recognize her as a Hindu. There is no reason for her to convert out of Islam, as she is a non-Muslim.

As for certain Muslim leaders urging Banggarma to seek redress in the Sharia court, this is also not appropriate. The Sharia court only has jurisdiction over those professing the religion of Islam, as the MCCBCHST rightly pointed out.

Since she is a Hindu, why should she go to the Sharia court? This is the same with the case of Fatimah Tan* in Penang, where she had to go to the Sharia court to supposedly convert out of Islam. The fact is that Fatimah Tan was never a Muslim in the first place. Her supposed conversion was only to enable her to marry an Iranian Muslim man. This is also confusing as the Iranian is a Shi'ite, and the Shi'a sect is not recognized as Islam in Malaysia!

So far, only the Sharia court in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah has rightly ruled in such a case involving one Roslinda from Kuala Penyu in 2007**. In the case, Sharia High Court judge Jasri Najip Majakir ruled that the Sharia court has no jurisdiction to allow apostasy (conversion out of Islam) and that it had no jurisdiction in matters involving Article 11(1)(freedom of religion) of the Federal Constitution. This means Roslinda can take her case to the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak.

However the North Borneo Herald has not received any reports about Roslinda seeking a solution in the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak. She could use the Malaysia Agreement to her advantage. No one has ever used the Malaysia Agreement in cases involving religion in the courts. However a Federal Court decision had ruled in favour of the Malaysia Agreement***. In that case, the Federal Court ruled that it is against the Malaysia Agreement 1963 for lawyers from out of Sabah and Sarawak making representations in the appeals court for cases originating from these two states.

Banggarma can try her case at the High Court of Malaya, however she would not be as lucky as Roslinda if the latter had filed her case in the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak, as Roslinda has the Malaysia Agreement to fall back on. However the point here is not about converting out of Islam. It is about the right to be recognized as being a follower of one's own religion.

* The Star, March 16 2009
**Daily Express March 29, 2007
***Daily Express, April 22, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

26 Seats if KDM Parties Unite!

In an earlier article, the North Borneo Herald had commented on the need for the Kadazandusun-based parties within the Barisan Nasional (BN) to unite. Here we would take a look at one benefit of having Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) and the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun-Murut Organization (UPKO)to merge.

As we all know during the 2008 state elections, PBS was allocated 13 seats, UPKO 6 and PBRS 1. Together these parties were allocated 20 seats. Two of these seats are Chinese-majority seats allocated to PBS. Unfortunately, PBS lost one of these Chinese seats, namely Sri Tanjung. This shows the level of support the PBS has among voters who are non-Kadazandusuns or non-Muruts.

At the same time, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) had contested in 32 seats, four of them being Kadazandusun-majority seats and one Murut-majority seat. These seats are Karanaan, Kemabong, Liawan, Pitas and Sugut. The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) on the other hand contested one Kadazandusun-majority seat allocated to it. Though the MCA won on two occassions, the votes it garnered show that majority of voters in Kepayan are against MCA contesting there. The only reason MCA won in 2004 and 2008 was because there were too many candidates contesting against it.

Now, it is no secret that PBS and UPKO have lobbied for Kadazandusun and Murut majority state constituencies. But when two parties lobby for a same seat, what happens is that the seat would go to UMNO. If PBS, PBRS and UPKO are united they could stake claim to all 24 Kadazandusun-majority seats as follows:

1.N3. Pitas
2.N4. Matunggong
3.N5. Tandek
4.N7. Kadamaian
5.N9. Tamparuli
8.N17.Tanjung Aru
11.N26.Kuala Penyu

And if this merger materializes and its leaders ask for the allocation of Sri Tanjung and Api Api to PBS to be retained, they could contest 26 seats in the state assembly, only one less than UMNO's 27! This could give the Kadazandusuns and Muruts a greater say in the state assembly and the government.

Opposition supporters who in the past voted against the Barisan Nasional (BN) too might change their mind and vote for the BN since they see an increased participation by Kadazandusun and Murut leaders.

So, the opportunity for the KDMs to return to political prominence in Sabah is great. The ball is now in the hands of the Kadazandusun-Murut leaders in the BN.

*according to the Election Commission's statistics, some of the state assembly seats listed above may show a large portion of supposedly-Malay voters. This however points to the large number of Kadazandusuns who have converted to Islam, especially in Karanaan, Kundasang, Paginatan and Bingkor. These seats are in fact non-Malay majority.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Timely For KDM Parties To Merge

At their respective recently held party congresses Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan and Tan Sri Bernard Dompok made some important demands to the Federal government.

Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president, Pairin had asked the Federal government to set a deadline in 2012 to eradicate the illegal immigrant problem in Sabah. United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun-Murut (UPKO) president Dompok meanwhile, had asked the government to return to its practise of allowing the use of the Malay language in Christian worship.

But we wonder how strong are the voices of these two Sabahan leaders in getting the immediate attention of the Federal goverment. The Kadazandusun and Murut communities are divided between three political parties in the ruling coalition namely PBS, UPKO and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS). There are also a number of kadazandusuns and Muruts in other ruling partners.

Would it not be better if PBS, PBRS and UPKO merge to form a united front so that their voices would be clearer. And so that they can truly claim to be the sole authoritative political representative of the Kadazandusuns and Muruts in the ruling coalition.

Not very long ago, the leaders of these three parties held a "mibabas" (peace making event) but nothing came out of it. Earlier than that, there were talks that UPKO and PBRS would merge, but nothing happened.

It is high time leaders of these parties make sacrifices to benefit the KDM communities. The people are willing to forgive, so it is now up to the leaders to make up.

Pairin, Dompok and PBRS president Tan Sri Joseph Kurup all have strong following. If they join hands, it would be great for Kadazandusun and Murut unity. It is difficult to be pushed around when we are united.

It is saddening to read in the newspapers when some Kadazandusun and Murut leaders dare to attack their leaders of different parties but would not dare to say a word against others who hold a stronger position. To progress, this mud-slinging in their own home must stop and uniting is the best way for it.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dompok Defends Malay Language Bible

At the recently held 15th UPKO Congress, its President, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok called on the government to return to the status quo of allowing Malay language Bibles to be circulated among Christians in the country.

Recently, it was reported that 15,OOO Bibles have been seized by the Federal government. This coupled with the fact that some states including Sabah have issued decrees banning the usage of certain words among Christians have created concern among Malaysian Christians, especially those in Sabah and Sarawak where Malay is the primary language of the Christian church.

It is hoped that Dompok's call would be heeded by the government. But then again, the fact that certain leaders in the government such as Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi are against Christians using Malay in their worship is worrying. Ahmad Zahid had once criticised Dompok in a West Malaysian daily for defending the use of Malay-language Bibles.

The opposition too is not short of such leaders. Bandar Baru Kulim Member of Parliament (MP) Zulkifli Nordin is also known for his opposition to Malay-language Bibles. These people should know that Malay language Bibles were used in Sabah long before the late Tunku Abdul Rahman proposed the formation of Malaysia.

Are these leaders then against the spirit of Malaysia? The real hurdle now is for people like Dompok to directly engage such narrow-minded leaders.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Single Stream School Good For All

It is interesting to note that former Prime Minister Tun Dr.Mahathir Mohamad is in favour of a single stream schooling system for Malaysia. Currently, there are three types of schools at the primary level and two types at the secondary level.

At the primary level, there are national schools where the main medium of instruction is Malay, the Chinese-type national schools where Chinese is the main medium and the Tamil-type where Tamil is the main medium.

At the secondary school level, there is the national type school where Malay is the main medium and the religious-type where only Muslim students are allowed to attend and the curricula is mostly based on Islam.

If we are to have a single stream education, then it is not only Chinese and Tamil schools that should go. Islamic religious schools such as the Sekolah Menengah Agama Kebangsaan (SMAK) too should go! Why only blame Chinese and Tamil schools for the lack of integration. At least in Chinese schools, you have students of various races and religious backgrounds. But in religious schools, you only have Muslim students.

And as a concession for doing away with these schools, Chinese Language, Tamil Language and Islamic religious subjects such as Islamic Education, Tassawur, Arabic Language, Syariah and others should be taught within school hours.

And in regards to Sabah please do not forget the Kadazandusun and Murut languages.