KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 – Two Sabahans are taking the Home Ministry to court for confiscating 2,000 copies of a Catholic paper at Kota Kinabalu last October, adding to a growing series of legal battles among Malaysia’s Christian minority for the right to practise their faith freely.
Activist Daniel John Jambun and lawyer Marcel Jude Joseph, who are both Roman Catholics, filed an application for leave at the Kota Kinabalu High Court yesterday for a judicial review against the Home Ministry’s seizure of a shipment of the Herald at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport on October 25 last year.
“We don’t want this to happen again in future,” Jambun told The Malay Mail Online when contacted today.
The Home Ministry subsequently released the consignment on October 27, Jambun said, but added that the issue was still pertinent due to the arbitrary action by the authorities that prevented the paper’s subscribers from receiving their copies on time.
“The order to seizure has not been revoked. On the record, the order of the executive must be declared null and void.
“The authorities cannot be allowed to act with impunity in defiance of the constitution, the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and related constitutional documents,” said Jambun, who is the head of a non-governmental organisation, Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (BOPIM).
According to court documents made available to The Malay Mail Online, Jambun and Marcel are seeking a declaration that the Home Ministry’s order to seize the Catholic paper was unconstitutional and that it contravened the 10-point solution issued by Putrajaya in 2011.
The 10-point solution was introduced by the Najib administration shortly before the Sarawak state election in 2011 to resolve the seizure of a consignment of the Al-Kitab.
It allows for bibles in Malay and indigenous languages to be printed, imported and distributed freely in Sabah and Sarawak, and in a controlled manner in the Malay peninsula, whereby the holy books must be stamped first to indicate that they are a Christian publication.
Jambun, who is the former deputy chairman of State Reform Party (STAR) Sabah, and Marcel are also seeking a court order to override the Home Ministry’s directive to confiscate the Herald, as well as costs and damages.
Jambun, a parishioner of the Church of St Catherine in Inanam, further said he was unable to buy a copy of the Herald when he attended Sunday Mass on the morning of October 27.
“… this action of the respondent contravenes my right of religious freedom guaranteed by Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution,” Jambun wrote in his affidavit.
The hearing for Jambun’s and Marcel’s joint application is scheduled for a hearing on February 10 at the Kota Kinabalu High Court.
The Home Ministry said on October 28 that copies of the Herald were seized for inspection to check if the word “Allah” was printed, noting that the Court of Appeal had upheld the government ban on the Arabic word in the Catholic weekly.
The Catholic Church is appealing to the Federal Court to be allowed to print the word “Allah” in its weekly paper, after the Court of Appeal reversed last October a 2009 landmark High Court ruling that the Arabic word for God was not exclusive to Muslims.
Malaysia’s highest court will hear arguments on March 5 before deciding if the Church can appeal.
In addition to the Herald, two other cases concerning the use of “Allah” by Christians are pending at the High Court.
The first was filed by the Sabah Sidang Injil Borneo (Borneo Evangelical Church) against the Home Ministry, for confiscating its Malay-language Christian children’s books, which contain the word “Allah”, in 2007.
The other is over the 2008 government seizure of audio compact discs, which also contain the word “Allah”, that belong to Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, a Sarawakian Christian.
P/s I hope this issue will finally be resolved. Government should proactive to settle this problem once and for all. The unity of Malaysian can be jeopardized if no concrete action be taken. There are many people waiting to take a chance to destroy Malaysian unity.