Thursday 12 May 2011

Summons shock for church-goers, one arrested

It was a normal Sunday for church-goers attending mass at the 130-year-old St John's Cathedral along Jalan Bukit Nanas in Kuala Lumpur. However, last Sunday turned out to be out of the ordinary as police started to issue traffic summonses to cars parked along the road.

On other days, there would be enforcement by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall and police officers, but not on a Sunday.

To make matters worse, the church had obtained a letter from City Hall allowing some leeway to this. The church has also written a letter dated April 7 to the city traffic police, informing them of the City Hall's relaxation of its rules.

According to Christian Lawyers Association president Joy W Appukuttan, the police in turn responded positively on April 25, this year.

“However, on Sunday May 8, the police started issuing traffic summonses to vehicles parked there despite knowing we have Sunday mass. All of us attending mass were caught by surprise by the police action as we have the letters from the City Hall and the traffic police on providing such leeway to church-goers,” he said.

“It is like Muslims going for Friday prayers, you do not find the traffic police issuing summonses for vehicles on such occasions. We are puzzled by the police action.”

Joy said he was not aware if any complaints had been lodged by anyone, resulting in the police action.

He said he could understand the authorities taking action on other days to reduce congestion but questioned such an action on Sunday when mass is held and after agreeing to a relaxation in rules, which has certainly created some dissatisfaction.

A member arrested

Joy said after some of the church-goers became aware of the operation, they approached the policemen who issued the summonses.

“We got to know one of the congregants who approached the police was arrested for alleged obstruction and was remanded. I have yet to get full details over what has happened. However, he has been released today on police bail,” he said.

“We do not know whether the person will face legal action.”

He hopes the police and City Hall officers could resolve the matter so as it would not upset church-goers and cause problems to them.

“This had never happened before in the past as we had managed to obtain an understanding with the authorities. Why now,” he asked.

The Christian community had been reeling in the past week following a row brought by Utusan Malaysia claiming they were plotting to turn the country into a Christian state.

Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Murphy Nicholas Pakiam has slammed the daily's reports alleging a conspiracy to turn the country into a Christian state as “irresponsible, baseless and provocative”.

The Christian community is also hurt over another on-going row over the usage of Allah in their holy books. The Home Ministry had seized their religious books which use the word.

This was despite a Kuala Lumpur High Court landmark ruling on Dec 31, 2009, that Allah is not exclusively for Muslims. However, an appeal by the Home Ministry is pending.

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