Christians still fear BM bible ban, say Sarawak MPs

By Shannon Teoh, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — Despite the government ordering the release of 30,000 Malay-language bibles seized in Kuching, Sarawak lawmakers said Christian voters there remain unconvinced there will be no future clampdowns.

With state polls set to be called next month, the issue is expected to weigh on the minds of Christians in the state, which, together with Sabah, is home to the majority of Malaysia’s of the faith.

Yesterday, Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) members of parliament told The Malaysian Insider that while they hope “the move will translate into votes,” a guarantee from the federal government that no further limits will be placed on the distribution of Malay-language bibles would go a long way in easing such fears among Christians in the state.

“Yes, it would be welcome,” said Kanowit MP Datuk Ago Anak Dagang when asked if Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should issue such a guarantee.

Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu supreme council member Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi also said BN would have to continue “step by step” to restore the faith of Christians in the ruling coalition.

“Right now, what we need is to get the bibles in the hands of Christians. Then that will be proof that there is no more ban, and it is allowed,” said the Kapit MP.

However, Sarawak DAP chief Wong Ho Leng insisted that the two years the 30,000 Alkitab spent locked up by the home ministry has “already done the damage.”

“This is just damage control by BN. We will definitely tell the public that the release was only an election ploy. There is no guarantee that after the election is over, BN won’t ban the bibles again,” the Sibu MP added.

On Tuesday, the Najib administration ordered the release of 35,000 Malay-language bibles being held in Port Klang and Kuching, bowing to pressure from Christians and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) politicians.

The home ministry began with the bibles’ release yesterday, but further controversy ensued when it was reported that the consignment in Port Klang had been unilaterally stamped with a ministry disclaimer without the importers’ explicit consent.

The Alkitab, as the Malay-language bibles are called, in Kuching have not been tampered with.

Christians in Sabah and Sarawak churches use Bahasa Malaysia to preach to the multi-ethnic congregation who each have a distinctive tribal language.