Where Does The Buck Stop?

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“Elizabeth, UMNO may set fire to my house. But the fire station is run by you guys in Selangor State EXCO. I expect you to put out the fire instead of arguing with me over who started the fire” (statement by Lee Min Choon to Elizabeth Wong, Selangor State EXCO member, at a meeting on 28 January 2014).

I could tell that the raid by JAIS on BSM was a hot potato when I was inundated by calls from politicians from both sides of the political divide telling me what to do before I even got out of the police station. The next day, people from the Department of National Unity called us to ask for a meeting. The head of this department within the Prime Minister’s Department is Joseph Kurup, a Christian from East Malaysia. Kurup was away in Australia when this happened but we met with a couple of his boys who promised to do what they can. They did stress that they were from the Federal government and JAIS was a state body and was technically not under them.

When Kurup returned, he did meet with the BSM exco on 21 January 2014 and promised to raise this matter with the Prime Minister. He did qualify that the action was taken by the state and there was little he could do if the state refuses to cooperate with the Federal government on this matter. We told him that we understood his limitations but left it to him to do his best.

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BSM EXCO meeting with Joseph Kurup (centre right)

 

The problem here was the division of powers between the Federal Government and State Governments. This was a by-product of the Constitution creating Malaysia as a federation, ie a union of states. The power to make laws and to implement such laws were divided up between the Federal and State governments by the Constitution. For example, the power in respect of security, defence and foreign affairs are given to Federal while power over land is given to the states. The lion’s share of the powers are given to Federal and that is why in most of the problems that occur in this country we have to deal with the Federal government.

However, the power to control and restrict propagation to Muslims were given to the states. Thus, Selangor passed the 1988 Enactment which banned the word Allah. Under this law, the power to enforce this law, like investigations and arrest, are given not to the Police, a Federal body, but to State-appointed bodies, like JAIS. Thus, the raid and arrest was carried out by JAIS, the Islamic Enforcement Department of the State of Selangor. The bibles that were seized were put in a JAIS van and taken to JAIS’ office in Shah Alam where they are kept to this day. There was no doubt in our minds that the action taken against us was taken by a body within the government of the state of Selangor.

On 28 January 2014, Elizabeth Wong, a state assembly woman from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and a member of Selangor State EXCO, met with BSM EXCO at BSM office.

This meeting was arranged by Elizabeth’s assistant, a guy by the name of Stephen Ng. Later, Stephen would go on to write many letters to the internet news portals putting the blame for the raid on the Federal Government and Idris Jala. Today, Stephen published a vicious attack on BSM in response to our media statement yesterday where we called on the Selangor State EXCO to be accountable for the management of this incident.

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Meeting with State EXCO councillor, Elizabeth Wong (centre) and her assistant, Stephen Ng (right)

 

At the meeting, Elizabeth was quick to say that Selangor State EXCO had no power and influence over JAIS. This to me was strange as the idea of an independent department not accountable at all is an anomaly in the theory of modern government. She also made it clear that the Federal Government was pulling the strings of JAIS. Thus, in her opinion, the raid on BSM was engineered by the Federal Government using a State body.

It was at this point that I said to her, “Elizabeth, UMNO may set fire to my house. But the fire station is run by you guys in Selangor State EXCO. I expect you to put out the fire instead of arguing with me over who started the fire.”

I can’t remember what promises was given by Elizabeth. I am sure there was nothing concrete because if there was, I would remember and would be expecting something by a certain date. Very soon after that, the issue of the BSM raid evaporated in the wake of the news surrounding the Kajang by-election and the disappearance of MH370. BSM did not hear anything from Elizabeth or anyone from Selangor State EXCO. There were statements by the Menteri Besar, Khalid, and the other fellow, Sallehin, on various occasions promising the soon return of the bibles. The last statement from Khalid was a few days ago when he said the bibles will be returned by middle of April. Now we can see that Selangor State EXCO has realised that they could not keep leading the public on and has finally decided to wash their hands off the problem and try to pass the buck to the Federal government.

 

 

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