Written by Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle
As expected, Prime Minister Najib Razak lined up a show in which he gave himself the hero's role and Bolly Lapok the part of the faithful supporting actor as he sought frantically to douse Christian anger at his mishandling of the Malay-language Bible or Alkitab issue.
On Wednesday, Najib gave Bolly, who is the chairman of Association of Churches Sarawak, his "personal promise" that he would never again impound the Alkitab.
But their melodrama is unlikely to sway the Christian community whether in Sarawak or in the peninsula. In fact, the lack of a concrete solution from Najib after weeks of discussion may spark even greater anger.
“We hope that it is not an election gimmick. As Christians, we always keep an open heart but we urge the Prime Minister to show his sincerity by dropping the Allah appeal,” Christian Federation of Malaysia member Rev Thomas Philips, who is also the president of religious organisation MCCBCHST, told Malaysia Chronicle.
"It is hard to understand the need for ‘personal promises’ when an instruction to the lawyer would be the cleaner and more conclusive proof of seriousness and sincerity."
Reservations and lack of credibility
One of the reasons for the reservations about Najib's "personal promise" is the lack of credibility. The scandal-plagued PM is already in hot soup for promulgating gutter politics, while Bolly is often viewed in the same disregard as Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria.
Both clerics not only toe but espouse the line taken by the BN leaders including Najib and Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mamud.
A day ago, Bolly had already met and posed for several high-profile photos with Taib. But he kept the best for the PM, whom he met today at the Hilton Hotel in Kuching.
“As a body that brings together a wide cross-section of the Christian community in Malaysia, we know about the sinfulness of man and have experienced the forgiveness of God. As such, we receive these expressions with all the sincerity with which they are offered,” said Bolly.
Within the Christian community, it is known that the views of the ACS tend to run counter to other Christian bodies in the country. Bolly himself has come under fire for allegedly bending to the will of the BN leaders.
“Now that the Church leaders in Sarawak have met and posed for a picture with the Chief Minister and the PM, the same courtesy should be extended to the Pakatan leaders,” a Christian leader told Malaysia Chronicle.
“Let’s see if Bolly does so. If he refuses or makes excuses, then it is not wrong for other Church leaders and followers to view Bolly and his group as being partisan during the elections.”
Still no reason for S'wakians to vote BN
At the crux of the row over the impounding of the Bibles is a court decision allowing non-Muslims to use the word Allah, which some quarters insist can only be used by Muslims.
Najib's government is apealing the decision and should it win, non-Muslims will be barred from using the word. It would also render the Alkitab illegal. This is the basis of the fears expressed by Rev Thomas and the CFM.
Christians account for 43 per cent of the Sarawak population. Many have condemned Najib's hurriedly unveiled 10-point proposal, arguing that it would only serve to divide the Christians in the country with two sets of rules – one for Christians in the peninsula and another for those in Sabah and Sarawak.
“There is still no reason for Sarawakians to vote for BN. They already know Bolly and his style," Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian told Malaysia Chronicle.
"I am quite sure what happened yesterday with Taib and today with Najib wll only confirm the notion that the two BN leaders rely too much on doublespeak. It has become a way of life to them. That Najib is unwilling to drop the Allah appeal indicates that he may renege on his word after the election." - Malaysia Chronicle