LET US BE FAIR TO BOTH SIDES

Posted on April 14, 2011

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As reported in The Star, 15.04.2011

KUCHING: The Association of Churches Sarawak has expressed regret that DAP, PAS and PKR leaders held a press conference on the association’s meeting with them Thursday concerning the Bahasa Malaysia bibles issue.

ACS secretary-general Ambrose Linang said the breakfast meeting was held behind closed doors after the leaders agreed to the association’s request not to hold a press conference regarding it.

“Our association received an invitation from Selangor state executive councillor Teresa Kok to have a breakfast meeting with the leaders of these opposition parties and agreed on condition that political issues would not be discussed as we are non-partisan.

“Shortly after the meeting we left. However, we were disappointed to learn that these leaders held a press conference later,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

Ambrose said the association would study the statements made at the press conference, and if there were political elements, it would issue an official statement. (Bernama)

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As clarified by YB Teresa Kok, 15.04.2011, 1.30 am

Association of Churches Sarawak (ACS) whacked Pakatan Rakyat (PR) as reported by Bernama. My response when asked by The Malaysian Insider on this is: We have agreed to have a closed door meeting and not to have press conference with the church leaders but we were never asked not to disclose issues that were being discussed to the media. In fact even if we (PR) don’t have a meeting with ACS, all leaders in the Pakatan have been saying all these issues in our political rallies and meeting the people sessions during the elections campaign. We just repeated the same thing when we met with ACS leaders.

However, we appreciate the meeting with ACS leaders and we understand their situation. I believe they are under tremendous pressures and that is why they made such a statement (as reported in Bernama).

We were told not to allow the media to come in to take photos and to make our meeting with ACS a closed door meeting. We have done that.

But how can we not speak to the media after the closed door dialogue session when the media were waiting outside? All the church leaders have seen the presence of the media when they arrived and they have seen us not allowing the media to enter the room to take pictures too. It is understood that we will have our own press conference after meeting them and reiterate our stand on issues related to Christians and churches.

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My take

I am laying the Bernama report and YB Teresa Kok’s response side by side for Christian leaders to have their respective two perspectives because during this Sarawak elections campaign, the playing field has not been level. On TV and the printed media, the Malaysian public have not been given more than perfunctory coverage of the opposition campaign and statements; it has been pretty much only the BN campaign that has been relayed by the mainstream media.

On the PR-ACS meeting, despite Bernama’s prompt objective or insistence to report ACS’ unhappiness about PR’s press conference after the meeting, in fact whatever PR said of the meeting at the press conference was not reported in the mainstream media. So what is there to object to? Even the Bernama report about this meeting only carried the ACS’ reaction to the press conference held by PR and that too because Bernama specifically asked for a comment from the ACS secretary.

And what do we as a Christian community in Malaysia find so wrong about PR taking up the issues which CFM and MCCBCHST have been raising? The main message PR has declared on this issue is that short of the attorney-general withdrawing the appeal to the High Court’s ruling on the “Allah” issue permitting Herald to use the word, the problem will remain regardless of the so-called government’s 10-Point solution. Quite frankly, if PR has not voiced these sentiments, the Sarawak elections campaign and the Sarawak voters will only have the federal government’s side of the story. How will this benefit the Christian community?

I am taking the trouble to communicate this especially to Christian leaders because I hear the voice of anguish in Teresa Kok’s 1.30 am phone message to me. In a democracy, the voters must have the prerogative to decide who they want to be their representatives in the next state legislative assembly. That can only happen when voters have the opportunity to hear both sides’ story.

The Christian Church can only be heard and seen as being truly non-partisan during an electoral process when it treats both sides of the campaign equally. Pardon me if I am wrong but I did not see this equal treatment in Sarawak this past week.

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Posted in: Perspective