Bishop demurs over PM's Christmas Day remarksCatholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing described Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's remarks at a hi-tea hosted by the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) yesterday as "pious platitudes we are used to hearing on these occasions".
Speaking to Malaysiakini after reading reports on web news portals on Najib's remarks at the CFM function which the prelate did not attend, bishop Tan said:
"I don't want to sound churlish, particularly in this Christmas season of goodwill, but if you shake down the PM's rhetoric, what have you left - syrupy sentiment and clichés that have little or no connection with realities on the ground."
In remarks made at the Christmas Day hi-tea attended by the PM and his wife Rosmah Mansor, Najib assured the Christian community that they have not been marginalised.
"I don't want to be prime minister for only a particular section of the community," asserted Najib. "I'm prime minister for all Malaysians, and I've said that repeatedly."
Bishop Tan said that no one with experience of how prime ministers have run the Malaysian nation would think to remark that there could be an ethnocentric and exclusivist dimension to the PM's role.
"It's odd that Najib has seen fit to remark that he has to be PM of all of our diverse nation and not just one or another part of it," commented the head of the Catholic Church of the Melaka-Johor diocese whose two-year tenure as president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei ends on Dec 31.
"That he has to say a thing like that shows how far his office has tended to depart from a broad-gauged conception of its responsibilities that now there is the suspicion that it is enthralled to exclusivist notions of its actual import," commented the Jesuit-trained prelate.
"If he had a broad view of his office, how come when Christians were accused over the last two years of not just being ‘pendatang' but sinister fifth-columnists, there was not a word from official quarters to stem that patently false accusation which was aimed at creating suspicion and hatred for Christians on the part of the Muslim majority of this country?" queried the bishop.
Promises not kept
The prelate said that as a founding member of the Malaysian Consultative Congress of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism - founded in 1984 - and as one-time leader of the CFM, he had met, in MCCBCHST and CFM's roles, three Malaysian prime ministers (Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Razak) and "all three had not kept the promises they made at the dialogues we have had with them."
"All three were benign and reassuring in personal interaction with MCCBCHST and CFM councils but were something else when faced with testing circumstances involving religious matters as and when issues fizzled in the public arena," recalled the bishop.
"So it's deja vu as far as I'm concerned with respect to the latest assurance from the present prime minister."
The bishop said Christians have grown leery of periodic assurances from the government that their contributions to education, welfare and heath care were not forgotten when the realities on the ground suggest that "their role must be muted or diminished for reason that others should not feel inferior by comparison."
"For the good of our society, this is not a predicament that Christians can abide anymore for reason that their light cannot be hidden under a bushel and their truth frees and holds no one in bondage," said the bishop.
"I feel this determination will register soon on our polity to the benefit of those political leaders who elect to tack with it in a creative manner and to the disadvantage of those who mean to tackle it in a merely politically expedient and vote-catching way."