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Churches: Louder calls to restore religious freedom
Published on: Thursday, July 28, 2016

Kota Kinabalu: Religious leaders in Sabah are calling on the government to defend and safeguard religious freedom in the State.

"Prior to 1963, Sabah was a land of freedom where its people of diverse background lived harmoniously without any religious tensions. But those days are now long gone.

"Today, we are haunted by the dictate of the Federal Court and government agencies of what and how we should refer to our God! The 'Allah' issue and the fear of repeated incidences of our imported religious materials being impounded are simply absurd and unacceptable to us," said Sabah Council of Churches President Datuk Jerry Dusing.

Speaking at The Grand Design book launching here, Dusing said when Sabah's forefathers agreed to form Malaysia in 1963, they were guaranteed that religious freedom will always be guaranteed for Sabahans.

Therefore, he said, nowadays, more and more Sabahans are demanding that the promise of religious freedom be restored in accordance to the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.


"We will guard our shores from efforts by any quarters to elevate Shariah law in this country, which is incompatible to the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

"Furthermore, the Shariah law simply will not work in Sabah which is inherently pluralistic in nature. We will guard our shores from injustice, unfairness and extremism," he said.

He called on all Sabahans to unite and make a stand to defend the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the spirit upon which it was drafted as recorded in the IGC Report and the Cobbold Commission.

He said that Sabahans were assured that the federation they were forming would be a secular State and it was agreed internationally by the government of the five sovereign nations that entered into the agreement namely the United Kingdom, the Federation of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.


"It is high time for Sabah to step into her identity not a mere State equivalent to that of the states in Malaya such as Perlis, Kedah, Pahang and Selangor.

"We call on the Sabah government to step in and take up its power and authority and seek the full restoration of all the promises and covenant made under the Malaysia Agreement 1963," he said.

Commenting on the book authored by political activist Zainnal Ajamain, Dusing said it is imperative that Sabahans and Sarawakians from all walks of life wake up and realise the importance of the three documents that preceded Malaysia.

He said the people must educate themselves of the details of the Inter-Governmental Committee Report, the Cobbold Commission Report and the Malaysia Agreement 1963 as these were the basis of the existence of the Federation of Malaysia.


For many years, he said, public discussion had been revolving around 20 Points in Sabah and the 18 Points in Sarawak which was incomplete and imperfect.

"It is time that we step into maturity in knowledge and understanding of the efforts made by the British government in relinquishing their colonial rights in North Borneo and Sarawak, aspirations of our forefathers in forming a new nation, and the essence of the covenant made between the five nations in the Malaysia Agreement 1963," he said.

Dusing reflected on the date the book was launched in Sarawak on July 9, exactly 53 years after the agreement was signed in London.

He hoped the book will increase the people's awareness of their true history and thus generate more open discussions towards the realignment of the nation towards a just, tolerant, equitable and progressive society.

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