Catholic Bishop Emeritus Antony Selvanayagam, who attended the meeting last Thursday between Lim Guan Eng and church leaders that has become the subject of controversy, contradicted an Utusan Malaysia report alleging politicised conduct by the Penang Chief Minister on the occasion.

NONE“I attended the meeting in my capacity as head of the Christian Federation of Malaysia’s Liaison Office in Penang,” said Selvanayagam, who retired as Catholic Bishop of Penang Diocese last August upon reaching the mandatory retirement age. He was replaced by Bishop Sebastian Francis.

Speaking to Malaysiakini today, Selvanayagam (right) said he would be surprised if anyone were to describe the deportment of Lim at the meeting as “political”.

“In fact, I recall the chief minister as being particularly careful in refraining from touching on any matter that came under the federal authorities’ purview,” said the prelate who had been head of the Catholic Church in Penang for 27 years prior to retirement.

Selvanayagam said matters raised at the meeting held at the Penang Caring Society Complex last Thursday affected perennial concerns of Christian leaders which were quit rent on church property, burial grounds and the rental of commercial property by various denominations.

“There was no overtly political issue that was raised and no instance where the chief minister made a comment that savored of politics,” said the Catholic leader.

With these remarks, Selvanayagam joined other attendees at the meeting – all senior church leaders - who have expressed surprise at the Utusan report, in its Sunday edition, Mingguan Malaysia, that imputed a political tincture to Lim’s deportment at the meeting.

lim guan eng church leaders 071012Last Thursday’s meeting was the second one in what looks like an annual affair in which the Penang CM (second from left, in picture) meets with church leaders to discuss matters pertaining to the right to free practice of religion.

Selvanayagam attended a similar meeting last year where he said that essentially the same issues that were raised this year were also discussed.

“These are matters that can be raised without recourse to politics for they concern administrative operations. There is a premium on clarity and everyone is at pains to avoid matters that are beyond their purview,” he said.