Allocate Special Budget for Non-Muslim Religious Groups – Warisan

TERRENCE SIAMBUN

KOTA KINABALU : Parti Warisan Sabah today requested the federal government to allocate a special budget for Non-Islamic religious organisations in Malaysia in appreciation of their continuous service and assistance to their devotees during this difficult pandemic period.

The Treasurer-General of Warisan, Terrence Siambun said that many churches and temples in the country that were highly dependent on public donations before the pandemic were now in dire shortage of funds not only to serve their communities but also to pay their staff salaries.

“Hence the Prime Minister, Ismail Sabri and the Ministry of Finance must attend to the plight of these Non-Islamic religious organisations that include mission schools, houses of worship, kindergartens or nurseries and come out with a specific financial and rescue package to enable them to stay afloat during this trying time when donations from their devotees have significantly decreased.

The Government should not downplay the significance of these Non-Islamic religious organisations or let them suffer in silence. Instead, appreciate their contribution in promoting peace and good. The fact that Malaysia celebrates Non-Islamic religious festivities such as Christmas, Deepavali and Wesak year after year depicts the acknowledgment of and the rights of Non-Muslims in this country who also require immediate and affirmative financial assistance due to the pandemic.

This acknowledgement of rights must be proven by the newly minted Prime Minister, in line with his ‘Malaysian Family’ concept. Ismail Sabri must now put into action what he told Malaysians to be and act now,” Siambun said in a statement today.

He also said that there is a need for Article 12(2) of the Federal Constitution to be amended to allow the automatic approval of an annual allocation to Non-Islamic religious organisations in Malaysia in proportion to the annual allocation received by Jakim so as to reflect fairness and equality.

“We saw how in the last few years, the Federal Government allocated at least RM1 billion annually to JAKIM at an increment rate and I believe such allocation is effected through Article 12(2)of the Federal Constitution that made way for the utilisation of public funds for the development of the Islamic religion in this country.

What this essentially means is that the Federal consolidated funds which include personal and corporate taxes collected from Non-Muslim person(s) or organisation(s) and Sabah’s Oil and Gas can be utilised to develop Islam in the country – while I don’t want to argue the rights and privileges of Islam as the official religion of the Federation, perhaps in addition to the PM’s immediate special Budget for Non-Islamic religious organisations next year, I think Parliament should also consider to amend this article to effect the inclusion of Non-Islamic religious organisations.

It is to my belief that throughout the years, funding to Non-Islamic religious organisations in the country for the purpose of religious development had not been consistent and at times, were made through political party(ies) representing the Government of the Day. Hence, there is a need to come out with an appropriate allocation formula with a ratio of at least 60:40; or that the funding should only be released to bodies acknowledged by the constitution to prevent abuse or political exploitation.

Warisan understands the enormous importance of religion as one of the pillars for nation-building and all religions in Malaysia teaches honourable virtues and values which act as the bond to hold the family and community institutions intact.

There is therefore, a need to ensure specific needs of all religions in Malaysia are being met and this is the gist of our President’s (Shafie Apdal) mantra of ‘Building a Nation And Not A Specific Race or Religion’,” he said.

Siambun who was also the first political leader from Sabah who questioned in March this year, the rationale of the then PN Government’s decision to draft and table the Control and Restriction on the Propagation of Non-Muslim Religions Bill, argued that Article 12(2) and the Bill could potentially cost PN and BN a huge loss from Non-Muslim voters in GE15.

“I believe that during the previous administrations of Razak, Hussein, Mahathir and Badawi, these leaders were not so keen to implement Hudud or control the propagation of Non-Islamic religions in the country so the Non-Muslims back then may have no issue with Article 12(2).

“Today it will be deemed very unfair or oppressive if you collect taxes and use a portion of it to develop only your own religion while at the same time, restrict others from propagating theirs.

“I will not be surprised to see PN/BN losing huge votes from the Non-Muslims not only because of the Bill itself but the way they are being treated.

“Remember, the Federation of Malaysia is being formed based on the premise that it will remain as a secular nation and not an Islamic one,” he said.