Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon announced yesterday that the Cabinet has agreed to the setting up of an Inter Faith Panel headed by former Member of Parliament Datuk Ilani Ishak.
Koh stressed that the Committee was not a rigid structure but merely a framework to provide for interaction and exchange of ideas.Koh also revealed that the idea for the Committee was proposed in January and Ilani was asked to put in place a structure, which was accepted by the Cabinet in January.
However, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom said the government-initiated Committee had been in operation for some time.
Two questions have arisen out of Koh's announcement.
Firstly, why is the government so reluctant in forming a formal Inter Faith Commission with powers and responsibilities to receive and investigate religious complaints and issues as well as to resolve religious conflict?
Secondly, what is new and different about this new Inter Faith Committee compared to the previous Inter Religious Committee ?
In January this year, the former president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism, Datuk Vaithilingam revealed that the Inter Religious committee had not met for a year.
He had urged the Prime Minister to ask the Minister in charge of national unity to reconvene the Committee.
Koh should explain why the Committee did not meet for such a long time and why it had also failed to help resolve the Allah controversy before it became a Court battle ?