Bishop slams bible seizure denial as lies

By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — Bishop Ng Moon Hing, who heads the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), has denounced as lies a reported home ministry denial that it seized and locked up at Port Klang 5,000 Malay bibles shipped in three years ago from Indonesia.

The imported bibles have become a source of controversy because they contain the word “Allah”, which the majority Malay-Muslim community here believes cannot be used by non-Muslims to refer to their deities.

On Wednesay, national news agency Bernama reported the ministry’s clarification that the bibles actually had been refused entry into Malaysia for not fulfilling the ministry’s requirements.

Citing the ministry statement, Bernama said a letter of refusal dated June 26, 2010 had been sent to the importer; however, the importer had yet to claim the cargo.

When contacted by The Malaysian Insider, Ng demanded to know who had made the statement.

“Who said it?” he questioned.

When told it was a statement reported by Bernama, and no name had been mentioned, Ng said: “Well, they’re lying.”

The ministry was responding to the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship’s (NECF) claim that the ministry had conducted the seizure.

NECF secretary-general Sam Ang, writing in its bulletin, claimed the ministry had confiscated and detained the bibles in Port Klang since the year before last, and continued to hold them although the Cabinet had approved the release of the consignment.

 The bishop said the CFM, the umbrella body representing over 90 per cent of all churches in the country — covering the Catholic, Protestant and evangelical segments — has documents to back their claim and called the ministry’s bluff on the issue.

Copies of two letters, sent by the ministry’s publication and Al-Quran text control division to the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) which had imported the Malay bibles, were also provided to The Malaysian Insider.

In the first letter, dated June 10 last year, a senior home ministry official wrote that the BSM’s appeal letter had been considered and the ministry in Putrajaya had decided to allow the release.

“Tuan diminta berhubung dengan pejabat ini untuk mengambil bahan penerbitan tersebut sebelum 25 Jun 2010 dari tarikh surat ini dikeluarkan. Semua penerbitan yang disita dan ditahan dibawah Seksyen 9A, 17 dan 18 ini akan terlucut hak menurut Seksyen 19(2) AMCP 1984 selepas tempoh 25 Jun 2010. Sekiranya tuan gagal berbuat sedemikian, penerbitan tuan akan dilupuskan mengikut apa-apa cara yang diputuskan oleh kementerian menurut peruntukan Akta yang sama,” it stated.

[In English, the letter reads: “You are requested to contact this office to collect the publications before June 25 2010 from the date this letter is issued. All publications gazette and detained under Section 9A, 17 and 18 will be terminated according to Section 19(2) of the Printing Press and Publications 1984 after the period of June 25 2010. If you fail to do so, your publications will be terminated in whichever manner decided by the ministry according to the provision of the same Act .”]

Ng, who is also head of the Anglican diocese in the peninsula, said the Bible Society and CFM representatives have been seeking help from various Cabinet ministers, to no avail.

“They give us their assurance that they will look into it,” Ng said, adding he had heard the phrase repeated countless times.

However, things changed after church leaders sought for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to intervene directly.