Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mazu Case: Datuk Chong Kah Kiat Loses

The Federal Court in Kuala Lumpur has rejected the appeal by Datuk Chong Kah Kiat against the Sabah government's decision to reverse the approval for the 108-foot high Mazu* statue.

The Kudat Town Board had in February 2006 approved the construction of the Mazu statue. Just as the Mazu construction was in progress, the state government cancelled its approval in November 2007. The reason given was that the Mazu statue would be too close to a mosque. In actual fact, the said mosque was 600 metres away from the site of the statue.

In fact the only voices against the construction of the statue were from several branches and divisions of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). This therefore cannot be translated as a Muslim opposition against the statue.

The Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman by the way had said that the government is offering an alternative site for the sake of upholding peace and harmony in Sabah. This is ironic, since if the government really wanted to uphold peace and harmony in Sabah, it would not have reversed its approval of the Mazu project in the first place.

Now, the state government has made an issue out of a non-issue. Sabahans are generally peace-loving and having mosques, churches and temples next to each other has never been a problem. However, things are slowly changing perhaps because UMNO which rules Sabah is not a Sabah-based party.

UMNO is slowly changing the way Sabahans think and interact with each other. First, they will say religious statues should not be built less than a thousand metres from a mosque. What guarantee is there then that they will not say non-Muslims should not worship less than a thousand metres from where Muslims live?

After all just 15 years ago, conversions from Islam to other religions were a non-issue in Sabah. But now it has become a very sensitive subject.

The sad thing is that the Sabah-based parties that are in alliance with UMNO prefer to keep quiet. Chong Kah Kiat is now seeing where his loyalty to the UMNO-led coalition has landed him. The rest will also will feel the pain when it bites them.

UMNO can be good for Sabah if it embraces the Sabahan qualities of harmony, tolerance and acceptance. But if it is importing Malayan standards of racial and religious division, then it will destroy the very fabric of Sabahan society.

*Mazu or Matsu is a Sea Goddess worshipped by Taoists and Chinese Buddhists

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Time To Upgrade Natives Court

The recent call by Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum for Sabah to have a Native Judicial Department is lauded.

It is high time that the Native Courts be given appropriate recognition in Sabah. And having a Native Judicial Department is one way of safeguarding the position of the Native Court.

The Native Court is the oldest justice system in Sabah, preceding even the Syariah court. Unfortunately, today the native court is seen as an inferior court, in fact Section 9 of the Natives Court Enactment 1992 gives the impression that the Native Court is inferior to the Syariah court.

Also the decision by certain government departments not to recognize marriages authorized by the Native Court is also an insult to the court.

It is also high time that the Director of the Native Affairs Council be appointed from among the non-Muslim natives as Muslims already have the Syariah court. In fact many of the matters being dealt with in the Natives Court are already within Syariah jurisdiction. Furthermore Syariah law is based on Islam, therefore it is complete and there is no reason why Muslims should go to the Natives Court except in cases where it involves both Muslims and non-Muslims, such as marriage between a Muslim native and non-Muslim native.

And the native court should be accorded a similar position to that of the Syariah court in the Federal Constitution.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sabah in the World Cup?

With the World Cup fever running high, have any of us ever thought what if Sabah had separate membership from the Football Association of Malaysia(FAM) in the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA).

It would mean that Sabah could compete for the World Cup qualifying rounds and have a shot at joining the World Cup finals. This is the same with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales who are all part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain yet have separate memberships in FIFA. These countries compete separately in international tournaments.

The same also goes for the Faroe Islands, which is part of Denmark. Faroe Islands also have separate membership and therefore compete as a separate team.

Prior to the formation of Malaysia, Sabah or North Borneo as it was once known sent its own team to international athletic competitions. North Borneo even participated in the 1956 Olympics in Australia.

There may be those who think that such an arrangement would be harmful to unity. However on the contrary, such an arrangement would give Malaysian sports fans the luxury of cheering three teams, Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya. For example if Sabah qualified for the World Cup, Malayans too would be cheering for Sabah and vice versa.

It also gives the opportunity for more athletes to compete internationally. However this is not so, but imagine if it is so. It would be very colourful indeed for Southeast Asian football, or Southeast Asian sports for that matter.

This is just a thought that the North Borneo Herald would like to share with readers.