Speech by the Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng
At The Penang State 2016 Christmas Open House
On 18th December 2016 In Fort Cornwallis
On behalf of the Penang State Government, we would like to warmly welcome every one of you to our Penang State Christmas Open House 2016. This annual event is being jointly organised by the Penang State Government and Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) Penang. I wish everyone here a very Blessed and Joyous Christmas. Our theme this year is Peace and Goodwill to All.
All around the world we see war and discord, bombings and killings. In our own country, there is often racial tension and religious disharmony, sometimes as a result of wrong understanding and other times through political disagreements.
The recent action by the Perlis State Government in amending the Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2016 to enable unilateral conversion of minors to Islam by a newly converted Muslim parent without obtaining the consent of his or her non-Muslim spouse is nothing less than an unconstitutional abrogation of a cornerstone of the Federal Constitution – equality before the law and entitlement for equal protection.
While the Penang State Government acknowledges that our Federal Constitution has provided for religious affairs to be a matter in the particular State’s jurisdiction, the simple act of amending Section 117 of the Enactment has far-reaching consequences. Changing the phrase ‘father and mother or guardian’ to ‘father or mother or guardian’ may seem trivial but a closer look at the inclusion of ‘or’ at the expense of ‘and’ between the father and mother would suggest that there is now a new family concept.
At least where Perlis is concerned, a family unit no longer consists of parents sharing equal rights and responsibilities in their children’s upbringing. Instead, the rights of parents to a minor are now ranked by the religion they profess. For the non-Muslim spouse/parent who chooses to remain in their faith, are they not still a parent to their child? Are they not entitled to share their faith with their young children?
It must be emphasised that the opposition to the Enactment is not an attack against Islam. For a nation that builds itself upon a plethora of religion, ethnicity and culture, Malaysia is now at an important crossroad. While my government will continue to steadfastly champion on the importance of tolerance in our society, we must answer this question. How are we to promote religious tolerance in the face of diminished rights of a non-Muslim parent or a non-Muslim spouse once a personal choice is made by their now Muslim-half?
We regret that the non-Muslim wakil rakyats in the State and Federal government have betrayed both the rights of non-Muslim parents and the Federal Constitution. Let the people see and judge at the next general elections.
The world longs for peace, our country and our people long for peace. But where is peace to be found? We need peace in families, we need peace between neighbours, we need peace across communities and cultures. But where is peace to be found?
This is God's message to the world: Peace and Good will to All. We pray for a Malaysian nation where people of all backgrounds and races will live together in peace and harmony, and where the poor and needy are cared for and provided for, where all people, young and old, can live with hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.
We would like to thank the organizing committee, pastors, leaders and members of various churches as well as the Management of Fort Cornwallis for letting us use this place for tonight's celebration. We especially commend the churches that have prepared for many weeks to present the items that reflect the spirit of Christmas tonight.
The churches in Penang have also come together to raise funds for a special Christmas gift to six charities and organisations to help them in their work. This is the spirit of Christmas, to give of ourselves out of what we have in order to bless and benefit others in need. Have A Very Blessed Christmas And A Happy New Year!
LIM GUAN ENG