Support for Najib’s proposal for an amicable settlement of the proposal to build the world’s tallest Mazu statue in Kudat and call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mishandling and lack of good governance in all three tiers of local, state and federal government resulting in the Kudat Mazu statue controversy undermining nation-building, inter-religious understanding and turning Malaysia an international laughing-stock
I welcome the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday expressing the government’s hope that former Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat will settle the Mazu status issue amicably without going to court.
He said the government is hoping to bring the Mazu statue issue back to the negotiation table instead of going through the court.
I support Najib’s proposal for an amicable settlement of the proposal to build the world’s tallest Mazu statue in Kudat.
It is important however for Najib to understand that the principles and issues involved in the Mazu statue controversy do not just concern Chong as one person, but have become a major public issue of national and even international importance involving not just three million Sabahans but also 26 million Malaysians
I am glad that immediately after my visit to Kudat to visit the site of the Mazu statue, there is now the possibility of a new development.
The Mazu statue controversy should not only be resolved at the negotiation table, I will go even one step further and call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mishandling and lack of good governance in all three tiers of local, state and federal government resulting in the Kudat Mazu statue controversy undermining nation-building and inter-religiousl understanding as well as turning Malaysia into an international laughing-stock.
I have just returned from a three-day visit to Kota Kinabalu, Kudat and Sandakan including a 500-km land journey from Kota Kinabalu through Kota Belud to Kudat and onwards to Sandakan through Marudu, with the Kudat-Sandakan journey taking eight hours through some very treacherous stretches (with 25 km of unsealed portion of the Paitan highway after the Nango junction).
Yesterday morning, together with DAP National Publicity Secretary and MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok, Kota Kinabalu DAP Branch Chairman Hiew King Cheu and Karambunai DAP Branch Chairman Pastor Jeffrey Kumin I visited the site of the Mazu statute (where over a million ringgit had been spent to complete the statue platform) for a first-hand understanding of the controversy over the proposal to build the world’s tallest Mazu (Goddess of the Sea) in Kudat to enhance the international tourism competitiveness of Kudat, Sabah and Malaysia.
A lot of things happened in the two years between 12th December 2005 when a ground-breaking ceremony for the project for the world’s tallest Mazu statue was held and 12th December 2007 when Chong instituted legal proceedings against the Kudat Town Board (KTB) and the Sabah state government for stopping the project, as evident from the following chronology of events:
12th December 2005 – ground-breaking ceremony for the world’s tallest Mazu statue after approval of site layout and building plans for the project.
8th February 2006 - the Kudat Town Board (KTB) issued a letter of approval valid for two years for the construction of the Mazu statue.
Works on the project commenced, including piling and construction of a 20 feet platform which was completed five months later at a cost of RM1 million.
Orders were placed for granite carvings of the statue by craftsmen from China and the granite carvings had been shipped from China and are now stored in a containers in Kota Kinabalu.
The Immigration Department had also given approval for visas to be issued to 11 craftsmen from China to assemble the granite carvings of the statue.
May 25, 2006, KTB, acting on the directive of the Sabah Local Government and Housing Minister, ordered the temporary suspension of the work project pending further directive from the Chief Minister.
June 6, 2006, the Sabah Local Government and Housing Ministry issued a written directive to KTB to order suspension of works on the project pending approval from the Chief Minister.
June 23, 2006, the State Secretary issued a letter to the KTB stating that the government had, after considering all the circumstances, decided that works on the project should stop immediately.
July 7, 2006, the Mufti of Sabah issued a Fatwa (religious decree) advising that the construction of the statue would offend Islam and ordered that the construction be stopped in order to protect the sensitivities of Muslims.
Nov. 15, 2007, KTB withdrew the approval granted by their letter of Feb. 8, 2006, giving reason that the site layout plan and building plans had not been approved by the second respondent by reason of non-compliance with Section 15 of the Town and Country Planning Ordinance.
December 12, 2007 – Chong Kah Keat institutes legal proceedings against KTB and Sabah State Government for stopping the work project, seeking declarations from the Kota Kinabalu High Court, inter alia,
1. that the letter of withdrawal of approval dated Nov. 15, 2007 by KTB be revoked, set aside and declared null and void;
2. that the letter of approval dated Feb. 8, 2006 be confirmed as valid and binding on all parties concerned;
3. compensation for loss suffered by project proponents.
The reasons which had been given so far do not stand up to any scrutiny. For instance, the argument that the Mazu statue is close to the Asy-Syarikin Mosque in Kudat collapses on close examination.
This is because the statue would be about 2,400 ft from the mosque, whereas there is another temple, the Fu Tik Temple which is just opposite the mosque across the road in the town cent re or about 100 ft away.
The Fu Tik Temple was built as far back as 1941 or some 66 years ago and was there when the Asy-Syarikin Mosque was built in the 80s. If the Asy-Syarikin Mosque had no objection to being so close to the Fu Tik Temple, the oldest temple of the Hokkien community in Kudat, and build it in the 80s about 100 ft away, why should there be any objection to the building of the Mazu statue which is about 2,400 ft away?
There are many places of worship of different faiths in the country which are next to one another and even share the use of common passages or spaces, for instance a temple and a mosque in Kuching which one above another while in Miri there is a church and a mosque next to each other sharing the use of common passageways.
In ancient times in the Middle East, Muslims, Christians and followers of other faiths share the same premises for their religious worship. Why are we not learning the best cultural, religious and civilisational practices in the history of mankind but want to blaze out a new path of extremism and intolerance in mutli-religious Malaysia which is also against the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion?
I understand that the Muslims in Kudat do not have any objection to the building of the world’s tallest Muza statue as they know its great tourism potential in kick-starting the economy in Kudat, which is the poorest in Sabah and therefore in Malaysia.
The insensitive controversy objecting to the building of the Mazu statue is created by a small group of Muslims outside Kudat with ulterior personal and political objectives, which set a dangerous precedent in undermining inter-religious understanding, goodwill and co-existence not only in Sabah state but in Malaysia as well.
The other objection that the construction of any statue or replica of a living thing, either human or animistic, is haram and should not be allowed – which is the fatwa of the Mufti Sabah – is even more subversive of the multi-religious foundation of Malaysia. Imagine the horrendous consequences if such a fatwa is accepted in Malaysia and implemented throughout the country?
The protracted controversy of the Kudat Mazu statue for the past 18 months, resulting in the highly-principled protest resignation of Chong Kah Kiat as Sabah Deputy Chief Minister is a reflection of mishandling, total insensitivity and lack of good governance in all three tiers of local, state and federal government resulting in the Kudat Mazu statue controversy undermining nation-building, inter-religiousl understanding and turning Malaysia an international laughing-stock.
There are two things which Najib should do immediately:
Firstly, remove all the man-made and politically-motivated obstacles to the construction of the world’s tallest Mazu statue in Kudat; and
Secondly, get the Federal Cabinet to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mishandling, insensitivity and lack of good governance in all three tiers of governance, local, state and federal government, resulting in the protracted and divisive Mazu statue controversy so that Malaysia could be spared in future of such misgovernance which could only undermine nation-building, inter-religious understanding and make Malaysia into an international laughing-stock.
Lim Kit Siang