PM’s aide says regrets Christmas ‘request’

By Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 — The prime minister’s aide who had allegedly ordered the removal of Christian symbols during a Christmas gathering last year came out today to express her “heartfelt regret” over the incident.

Datuk Hardev Kaur, who is Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Special Officer, however denied reports that she had issued instructions to remove the symbols from the entire venue or warned the organisers against airing Christmas carols or reciting from the scriptures during the function.

Instead, Hardev claimed she had merely requested for a rostrum to be free from such material.

“I did not give any instruction whatsoever to remove crosses or crucifixes from the church or the vicinity of the function.

“There was also no directive not to sing carols at the function,” she wrote in a statement today.

She pointed out that she had suggested that guests be entertained by carollers while waiting for the prime minister’s arrival as the latter’s schedule for the day had been packed.

“At no time did I instruct that carols should not be sung or that scriptures should not be read at the function. There was in fact a choral presentation and grace was said,” she said.

Hardev explained that her only request to the organisers was in the form of a “suggestion” that it would be preferable if the rostrum from which Najib would deliver his speech be free of any religious symbol.

“I had made it clear that it was a request and not an instruction.

“In fact, there was no cross or any religious symbol at the venue of the tea party, the car park near the Archbishop’s residence,” she said.

She stressed that the request had been made out of “good intention”, on her own initiative and had not been on the instruction of the prime minister.

“If my request has led to any misinterpretation and misunderstanding, I express my heartfelt regret,” she concluded.

The Malaysian Insider reported last week that the premier’s aide had issued a list of instructions to Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam and organisers of the Christmas tea-party a fortnight ago, including ordering the removal of Christian symbols from the venue.

The instruction was alleged to have been made to facilitate the prime minister’s presence at the function.

The issue caused uproar among the Christian community, who expressed their disappointment with the Najib administration for its alleged display of religious intolerance.

Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers also waded into the fray and called on the prime minister to issue an apology to the community.

In the prime minister’s silence, some anger was later directed at the archbishop himself as many in the community questioned if the leader had indeed compromised his principles and complied with the instruction.