Wednesday 18 May 2011

Transparency International M'sia head: No pact for Christian state

The head of the Malaysian chapter of corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI-M) has dismissed the claim that a pact was made to turn Malaysia into a Christian state, at a dinner for pastors two weeks ago in Penang.

NONEPaul Low (left), who had attended the dinner on May 5 as an invited guest, said he was witness to the whole function which included a conference.

"I categorically confirm that no pact or pledge for Christianity as official religion or for a Christian prime minister was made on the evening of May 5 or at any time during the conference,” he said, reading out a statement at a press conference at the TI headquarters in Kuala Lumpur this morning.

"I have not been asked to give my statement to the police during the probe, but will gladly do so upon request."

azlanTwo pro-Umno bloggers had produced a grainy photograph of pastors raising their hands in prayer, claiming that the participants were working in cahoots with DAP in pledging to see that Christianity usurps the position of Islam as the official religion.

Umno-owned Malay daily Utusan Malaysia reproduced the report the next day, sparking a flurry of accusations and counter-accusations.

A DAP member, who had accompanied the party's Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi to the event, later lodged a police report, acknowledging that he had taken the photo which appeared on the blogs.
Low said he had been invited to speak on 'Corruption in Malaysia and Instruments of Accountability' at the dinner held before the 'Unashamedly Ethical Conference'.

He said the only pledge made that day by the pastors was to sign up to a commitment to say 'No' to bribery and corruption.

Low had spoken on the 'Integrity Pledge' introduced by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit and the Integrity Institute of Malaysia, as well as the Integrity Pact introduced by TI-M.

"Maybe one of the pastors prayed from his own heart and lifted his hands, so that may (have been) misunderstood as a pledge," he said.

Asked if he thinks this was a genuine case of misunderstanding on the part of the bloggers or if they had malicious intent, Low refused to speculate.

"I don't know. I cannot judge. As far as I'm concerned, there's no pledge or pact (for a Christian state). Why should they make a pact with me around?" he asked.

Low, a Christian, explained that it is the norm for pastors to lift their hands when praying.

"When people pray for a person, they will lift their hands to heaven, so it's between them and God. It's not between them and DAP.

"It's not liperkasa police report, melaka on pastors meetingke when (US president Barack Obama raised) his hand to take the oath of office and (swore) to carry out his duties.”

Since the dinner, people in several quarters have lodged police reports, while some pastors have had their statements recorded as part of the ongoing investigation.

Delay explained

Low was also asked why he had waited this long to clear the air.

To this, he said he had wanted to make sure that he had locus standi, as he merely an invited guest.

"This was supposed to (have been clarified) by the organisers. But of late, I see all sorts of accusations and conclusions of a pledge (for a Christian state)...

"It was up to my coNONEnscience as president of TI-M, so it took me a while to know if I had the locus standi to make this press statement or not.

"Now I feel that I need to say it, particularly coming from TI which stands for truth, transparency and integrity. Hence the delay.”

He also said that he had been taken aback when the information and photograph - in which he appeared - were circulated.

"I thought it was ridiculous, to be frank. What shocked me was how (photos from) a private party (could be) circulated on the Internet. I thought something was wrong with our culture, but maybe it was quite common in politics.

"Then I thought (to myself) how ridiculous this is, but I still cannot judge the motive of the person who took the photo."

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