Published on: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 HERE
Kota Kinabalu: Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) is all for consultation or mediation as the best way to resolve the conflict over the use of the term "Allah" in Malaysia.
PBS President, Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, said he regretted the conflict has gone to the court in the first place, but added that he understood the circumstances behind it.
He said he also sympathised with the Prime Minister who has to make tough decisions in light of the sensitivity of the issue and the conflicting demands and expectations of various groups.
However, Pairin, who was speaking during the swearing-in of the elected and appointed PBS Supreme Council members in Donggongon, Penampang, said the issue on the use of the term "Allah" is complex and whatever position the Government takes is bound to please or diplease someone.
Due to the heightened sensitivities at the moment, he feels the best policy is to speak less so as not to aggravate situation.
For that reason, he said, in the last few days PBS decided not to make unnecessary statements.
Pairin, who is deeply concerned with the development in the case, advised all PBS members not to read too much into what they see on TV or the unfounded rumours they read from the short messaging service (SMS).
"No one can be truly sure who are the real perpetrators causing the unnecessary trouble which seems to create a climate of fear and uncertainty," he said.
Further, he said PBS leaders must refrain from making statements especially to the newspapers, which may be misconstrued and, thus, further aggravate the already tense situation.
He said after taking into consideration recent events and the various statements by individuals, some favourable and others not so favourable, PBS' stand is that the best way to resolve the conflict is through proper consultation.
He said the case is already in the court of appeal and the prospect of the plaintiffs in the court case withdrawing their case without any tangible offer to negotiate out of court is very slim, so PBS wants to see proper consultations among the parties to the dispute to reach an amicable solution.
Pairin said the prospect of success in resolving the conflict is good as the culture of the people of Sabah is to negotiate or consult one another in resolving conflict.
Pairin therefore welcomed the statement by Datuk Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, that non-Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak be allowed by the Federal Government to use the term "Allah" in their prayers and worship which he said is acceptable and should be seriously considered.
He said there have been suggestions that the "Allah" controversy is a uniquely Peninsular Malaysia problem, not Sabah and Sarawak.
"If viewed from this angle, then the statement by Nazri certainly offers a clue as to the possible solution to the problem," he said, urging the Federal leaders to take notice of the need for proper consultation with the relevant parties.
Pairin expressed concern that the issue now has been highly politicised since PAS and PKR have issued statements to say they accept the use of the term "Allah" by Christians in the footsteps of Muslim majority countries such as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia where non-Muslim citizens can use the term" Allah" without any restriction.
Nonetheless, Pairin expressed confidence in the leadership of the Prime Minister who recognised and understood the issue from the perspectives of both sides.
He said he was grateful both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have given their firm assurances that the matter will be resolved amicably.
"PBS is confident the social maturity and the democratic values of the people of Malaysia will ensure the country will weather the storm of any racial or religious disputes arising out of misunderstanding," he said.
He said Malaysia must learn from the lessons of history that racial unity and religious harmony built over a period of 50 years cannot be taken for granted and should never be compromised.