Tuesday 10 May 2011

Bishop decries fixation over Christian PM issue

May 10, 2011 Malaysiakini

Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing said an obsession with the racial and religious leanings of a prime minister, or for that matter, of any other holder of high office in Malaysia is “fundamentally disorienting”.

In comments to Malaysiakini on the latest twist to the debate on an alleged Christian move to dethrone Islam as the official religion of the country, the bishop of the Melaka-Johor diocese, said:

bishop paul tan“Allowing the debate over which race or religion wielded precedence in the matter of who is qualified to become a holder of high office in the country is fundamentally disorienting.

“We should not allow the debate to revolve obsessively around these parochial considerations.

“I'm not saying these are not important considerations; only that after a half century of our independence, if we are going to be fixated on them, we would divert from what is more important at this stage - a person's intellectual and moral fiber for high office.”

A national debate has been triggered by the claims aired last week in some blogs allied to Umno, and taken up by the Malay daily Utusan Malaysia, that a group of Christians pastors, supposedly aided and abetted by the DAP, were plotting to replace Islam with Christianity as the official religion of Malaysia.

The same groups were also alleged to be praying for the appointment of a Christian prime minister.

In a response to these speculations, BN cabinet minister Bernard Dompok, a Catholic from Sabah, offered the view that there was nothing in the constitution of the country to disbar a non-Muslim from being PM.

These considerations leave Bishop Paul Tan, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, somewhat cold.

“I would think the intellectual and moral qualifications of an aspirant for high office should precede all other considerations,” he commented.

“It is a sign of mediocrity in people when they allow their intellectual and moral stature to be subsumed under identity politics.”

Genuine dialogue please

The Jesuit-trained prelate felt that much of the moral squalor prevalent in Malaysia, which he said was behind the high incidence of corruption and ineptitude, was due to the obsession over race and religion in determining who is qualified to lead.

“We must loosen the hold these shackles have on Malaysian society and free national discourse from their disorienting effects. We must emancipate our society.”

Bishop Paul Tan proposed a method by which government and civil society can navigate the shoals in which both presently find themselves.

"The most important step to take is to find out the truth of what goes on; then, if there is a need for dialogue, we should enter into it. However, the dialogue must end up in concrete action to be taken to solve the problem,” he expatiated.

“Often, in the past, our dialogues with the government have ended up in smoke and frustration. If this were to happen, then the dialogue would be of no use.

“God gave us intelligence and rationality. Let us not leave them frozen in cold storage. Defrost them and use them to find out the truth and take action.

“Only in this way, can we prove ourselves to be rational human beings and not creatures of mere instinct.

“We want our leaders to be rational thinking beings of quality not animal-like beings that follow their feelings and instincts."

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