Pua reveals Hisham ordered BM bibles release in 2010

By Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 — DAP MP Tony Pua unveiled documents today showing Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had issued orders last June for the release of 5,100 Malay-language bibles currently impounded at Port Klang.

The home minister had said over the weekend that the bibles had been impounded due to the ministry’s pending court appeal on the Catholic weekly The Herald’s use of the word “Allah” in its publications.

But the Petaling Jaya Utara MP revealed that Hishammuddin, in his written reply to Parliament on June 7 last year, had announced that a notice had already been issued to the books’ importers urging them retrieve their consignment.

“There are a total of 5,100 Al-Kitab Berita Baik books detained. Notice has already been sent to the importers to retrieve the consignment but until now, they have failed to do so.

“The publications are being stored in good condition in the Home Ministry’s Port Klang office although the deadline for the importers to retrieve them has expired,” was Hishammuddin’s written response to a question from Pua last year.

Pua charged that since the consignment in question is still being impounded in Port Klang, Hishammuddin had misled the House with his answer.

He added that this was further compounded by The Malaysian Insider’s publication yesterday of a ministry letter dating June 10, 2010, where a senior official wrote that the appeal by the book’s importer, Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) had been considered and the ministry had agreed to release the consignment.

“So it is a lie on two fronts,” Pua told a press conference in Parliament this afternoon.

He also referred to a response from Hishammuddin yesterday where the minister claimed that the Bibles had been impounded due to the ministry’s pending court appeal on the Catholic weekly The Herald’s use of the word “Allah” in its publications.

In his statement, Hishammuddin had also said that the ministry was presently awaiting advice from the Attorney-General to determine its next move in the controversy.

“So this is what is happening today. A lie on two fronts… the reply from the minister is a lie. And yet there is a letter proving that the notice was indeed sent.

“So you (BSM) can claim it back but until today, you still cannot claim it back? Now you (Hishammuddin) say you have to refer to the A-G but yet in Parliament earlier, you said the books were released.

“Is this because the minister is just misleading the Parliament to discourage any further questions?” said Pua.

He urged the ministry to take responsibility over the issue and clear any confusion by ordering the immediate release of the confiscated Bibles to the BSM.

This, he said, included the additional 30,000 Malay-language Bibles which are also presently held by the Home Ministry at the Kuching port.

“There should be freedom of religion in this country where Christians are allowed to practise in whatever language they please as long as these Bibles are not distributed to the Muslims,” said Pua.

DAP’s Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen agreed and added that as the issue was of public interest, it would likely be highlighted by the opposition during its campaign in the Sarawak polls.

“This is definitely an issue that concerns the people and it is unfair of the Barisan Nasional (BN) so of course we will highlight it.

“The BN government is being oppressive to those of other religions,” he said.