Revoking Singaporean’s PR is too harsh, Tiong Lai says

(MM) – Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said today the government’s decision to revoke the permanent residency  (PR) of a Singaporean Muslim man for allowing a group of Buddhist tourists to meditate in a Muslim prayer room in a resort, as too harsh of a punishment.

The MCA deputy president said the resort operator should be given a chance to explain and that if it was not his intention to offend Islam, he should not be given such a harsh punishment.

“I would say it is a bit harsh because they have to at least look into the whole issue … because you must understand the circumstances of the issue.

“The authorities should be sensitive and be tolerant about this issue,” he told reporters after a dialogue session with eight major Chinese youth associations at the KL Hilton here.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced earlier today the government was revoking the Malaysian PR of a Singapore-born hotelier based in Johor as a stern reminder to foreigners to mind local religious sensitivities.

The Singaporean was released yesterday on police bail, after being remanded for four days to assist with investigations.

Liow said the government should consider the opinions of religious scholars as well, to resolve this issue.

“Malaysia is a multiracial society, multi-religious…we think the authorities should also be concerned about the feelings of other religion in implementing any decision, so what we want to emphasise is that we want to ensure that whatever action taken by the authorities, it has to be a fair decision, a fair action.

“So in this aspect, since he is a Muslim personnel, we feel that we should take the views of some of the ustazs and also the ulamas [sic] in respect to whatever decision taken,” the former health minister said, using the Malay words for Muslim religious teachers and scholars respectively.

“But we view that this issue … has to be handled with care, it has to be taken in the sensitivity of the issue and we have to preserve the unity and harmony of this country,” he said.

On Monday, media reports surfaced of a video uploaded to the popular video-sharing site last week allegedly showing a surau in the Johor resort being used by Buddhist tourists for prayers.

The 85-second-long video titled “Surau dijadikan tokong?” (A surau turned into a temple?) depicted what looked to be a group prayer session of a dozen white-clad people, led by a man dressed in Buddhist red-and-saffron coloured robes in a room that had Arabic script over its doorway.

This later led to the arrest and remand of the Singapore-born Muslim resort owner under section 295 of the Penal Code, which comes under the heading of “injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class”, after police reports were lodged over the incident.

Malay daily Berita Harian quoted the resort owner as saying last Monday that he did not expect the offer to lead to the controversy now.