The seized hymn books should be returned to Catholic priest Cyril Mannayagam without any delay and police personnel should be sent for “sensitization” courses to respect multi-religious rights and sensitivities as well as keep up with legal developments
It is sad, shocking and outrageous that 20 days before Christmas, a religious festival which is accorded recognition as a national public holiday, like Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Raya Haji, Deepavali and Vesak Day, Malaysia is marred by another insensitive incident – the police action in Tangkak on December 5 detaining a Catholic priest Cyril Mannayagam and seizing 31 copies of a hymn book intended for Orang Asli Christians.
Cyril posed no threat to national security and was not doing anything which could by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as subversive or subterfuge as all he did was to ask a bookshop to photocopy 31 copies of a hymn book, titled “Mari Kita Memuji Allah Kita” meant for the Orang Asli parishioners in his congregation at the Church of St Andrew in Muar.
Adding insult to injury, the Tangkak police action was unlawful – an instance of the police breaking the law when they should be upholding the law.
This is because the law the police was using against Cyril, Section 298A of the Penal Code on causing disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will on grounds of religion, had been struck down as invalid by the then Supreme Court in 1988 in the case of Mamat bin Daud v Government of Malaysia.
The Supreme Court held that Section 298A of the Penal Code was unconstitutional as it was a provision in the Penal Code and as such had no power to legislate over Islamic matters.
Christmas festivities have started and the 31 hymn books unlawfully seized from Cyril should be returned immediately to the Catholic priest for Christmas celebrations by the Orang Asli Christians.
Let us all spread Christmas joy instead of Christmas grief!
The Police must learn a lesson from this deplorable episode and should be extra sensitive of the rights and sensitivities of a plural society of diverse races, religions, languages and cultures.
All police personnel should be sent for “sensitization” courses to be the first in their police districts to respect multi-religious rights and sensitivities as well as keep up with legal developments, so that police who carry out arrests know what are the provisions in the Penal Code which had been struck down as invalid and unconstitutional by the courts of the land.
Why are the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, who would shoot off instant comments on matters under their purview, strangely quiet on this issue for the past 10 days?