Bishop Paul Tan says he is displeased and disgusted with the outcome of the meeting between PM and Christian leaders over the Utusan row. He calls the entire episode an Umno orchestration.
KUALA LUMPUR: Without mincing his words, a Catholic bishop criticised his fellow Christian leaders for allowing themselves to be used by the government to “please the other side”.
Instead of telling Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak the truth, Bishop Paul Tan of the Malacca-Johor diocese said the Christian leaders had become like “sheep being led to their slaughter.”
Commenting on the news reports on the meeting between Najib and the Christian leaders, led by the Malaysian Christian Federation (MCF) chairman Bishop Ng Moon Hing yesterday, Tan told FMT that he was extremely disappointed with the outcome.
“I was not at the meeting, so I don’t know what transpired and whether the newspapers reported the entire discussion. But if the news reports are true, then I am displeased and disgusted,” he said.
The luncheon meeting was held amid the raging controversy surrounding a Utusan Malaysia report which alleged that a Christian coup was in the making, with Christian leaders and DAP colluding to undermine the position of Islam.
‘Umno agenda to rake in votes’
Tan, 71, pointed out that since Utusan was owned by Umno, the daily would not have published the report without an endorsement from the party led by Najib.
The bishop also claimed that it was part of an Umno agenda to rake in Muslim votes in the coming general election.
“Utusan’s Christian bashing, the big feature on the Pembela demonstration at the Putrajaya mosque about the 10-point plan and now the so-called conspiracy are purely an Umno agenda prior to our general election which is imminent.
“This agenda is to unite the Malays and for Umno to be seen as the bigger and better champion of Islam than PAS whose main claim to fame is that it is an Islamic party,” he said.
“Therefore, the Christian bashing, exaggerations and fiction demonising us are for a purpose: to enhance the siege mentality of the Malays and make them cleave to Umno to ‘protect’ Islam,” he added.
According to Tan, the chronology of events had lent credence to the claim that the entire episode smacked of orchestration for the election.
“Utusan publishes what it does, Pembela and Perkasa lodge police reports premised on fiction, but not one police report from our Christian leaders and so the police investigate the fiction published by Utusan. The police can only investigate based on a police report, not on newspaper cuttings.
“Nothing for a while from the home minister and Najib only asks for calm. Then Najib meets first with Muslims groups to calm them and states that Umno will always defend Islam, the Federal Constitution etc. The media were called and featured the meeting,” he said.
“Surely by then, our Christian leaders would have known that this issue was clearly manipulated and that the media would be present and regardless of what our leaders said (at the meeting), it would end up on the same trajectory: Islam safeguarded and the Christians agree to this.
“Why did the Christian leaders walk into that clear booby trap? Why didn’t they have a clear statement printed out for the press, saying what they wanted the meeting to be and what their own demands were, regardless of Najib’s spin,” he added.
Tan, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, said the government always practised double standard – one set of rules for Malay/Muslims, and another for the rest.
Responding to a question, the hard-hitting Jesuit-trained prelate, who once served in Rome, also dismissed Najib’s 1Malaysia concept as nothing more than deceit.
“All that has happened shows that the 1Malaysia concept is a bluff. We played the usual and now the worse – racial and religious bigotry,” he said.
Asked if he agreed with Utusan only being slapped with a reprimand letter, when other publications in the past, such as the Sarawak Tribune, were dealt a lethal blow, Tan said the Umno paper should not be spared the rod.
“Action should be taken against Utusan and the two ministers who supported it in the same way they suspended in the beginning our Catholic ‘Herald’ just for using the word ‘Allah’ which, in fact, is not the property of Islam.
“I am absolutely surprised that the Christian leaders who were there to see our PM appeared all of a sudden tame and conciliatory and did not demand justice be done, i.e., in the same way, the government dealt with the other non-Malay/Muslim papers. Then again, perhaps, the press did not publish everything (on the meeting),” he added.
Sarawak Tribune was forced to cease operations in 2006, when the government clamped down on the daily for publishing offensive caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.
In a related development, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said there was “some basis” to the Utusan report.
Speaking to the press, he said this was in view of new evidence provided in a police report lodged in Penang today.
Furthermore, he added, Utusan’s editor-in-chief Aziz Ishak’s explanation to the home ministry was similar to the contents of the police report.