PETALING JAYA: A vocal Catholic leader has backed the call to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to look into corruption and other issues such as race relations if Pakatan Rakyat forms the federal government.
Focusing on freedoms, Bishop Paul Tan said these, especially religious freedom, and truth sprung from the dignity of being human beings and curtailing them was an act aligned with the devil.
“It is the smothering to death the dignity of being a human being – the truth of being a genuine human being,” he told FMT.
The head of the Malacca and Johor diocese was responding to Bersih chairperson S Ambiga’s proposal to form the TRC instead of going on a witchhunt against the corrupt if the opposition bloc seized federal power
Arguing that it would not bode well for a nation in transition to be burdened with such court proceedings, the former Bar Council president suggested that amnesty be extended to those who came clean and cooperated to allow the commission to recover lost assets.
Ambiga also said that the TRC should look into other issues which had affected the nation during the course of Barisan Nasional’s protracted rule.
Reconciliation is necessary
Refraining from taking sides with either political bloc, Tan explained why he supported the proposal put forth by the Bersih chairperson.
“A human being is born with an intrinsic elan or a thrust for freedom to search for truth which should lead ultimately to love, concretely, acceptance of each other just as God accepts us with all our goodness and sinfulness,” he said.
“But to attain this type of intrinsic search for true freedom, one must remove all obstacles in its way, such as prejudices, biased opinions, hatred, anger, craving for money that leads to corruption, etc.
This means that reconciliation with others must be a prerequisite to attain true freedom.
“One cannot love another different [cultural, racial or religious] from oneself [acceptance of another as he or she is] without first being reconciled. Therefore, reconciliation is a necessary step to love of others,” he added.
Therefore, Tan said all, be it from BN, Pakatan or NGOs should support the TRC because it touched the basic nature of being a human being.
Without mincing his words, the bishop said the fact that the present government discriminated against those who did not profess Islam could not be denied.
He noted that the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) had submitted numerous memorandums to the government complaining about this discrimination.
“It is too long for me to go into the string of unhappiness brought up by MCCBCHST. But just to give a few examples: the enormous difficulty to get approval for the building of a church or temple, the lack of burial grounds for non-Muslims, the unethical methods employed to convert non-Mulims to become Muslims, etc. etc.
“Hardly anything is done to rectify this discrimination,” he said.
Over the years, there had been several contentious issues which put the government and Christian leaders at loggerheads, among them, an accusation by the Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia that Christians were plotting to take over the government.
The row over using the term Allah in Malay language bibles also witnessed the fire-bombing of several churches, leaving the Christians incensed.
Fearing that this could lead to an electoral backlash, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak last July visited the Vatican, where he met Pope Benedict XVI, to embellish his secular image.
Meanwhile, Tan also posed a stinging question to religious leaders.
“Have we subtly compromised our position in order that we can get financial aid from the ruling coalition – through various political parties?” he asked.
The bishop said while his statements were not crafted to inflame any quarter, the matter however needed to be put across.
“What must be said must be said clear and loudly: enough is enough!
“No lies, no corruption, no manipulation of others, etc., because finally, truth will rear its head and justice will be done for the peace of all,” he added.
Tan explained that he did not imply that donations, even from the government, cannot be accepted but stressed that these must come without strings attached.
“Donation without condition is a blessing. Receiving monetary gifts tied directly or indirectly to political interests is insidious and unethical,” he said.
“It is not a moral stand that I take. It is to search with all of you for truth in the midst of the Malaysian political situation where religion is made used of by politicians for their end and politics is played to enhance one’s religion.
“I am sure there is room for different opinions in this loaded question. At least, we dare face,” he added.
Ambiga’s TRC proposal came in the wake of DAP strongman Lim Kit Siang’s remark that Dr Mahathir Mohamad was intensively campaigning for BN because he feared prosecution under a Pakatan government.
Denying that he had indulged in corrupt practices and abused his powers during his 22 years in office, the former premier accused his long-time political foe of wanting to see him jailed or put to death.
This drew flak from Lim, who said that he harboured no such desire but stressed that Mahathir should not block a full investigation into the numerous financial scandals during the latter’s term.
The TRC proposal was also backed by PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, who stated that Pakatan was more interested in rescuing the nation as opposed to prosecuting Mahathir.