11/24/2022, 14.29
MALAYSIA
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Christian leaders seek harmony and moderation from the new government

Anwar Ibrahim took the oath of office today before King Abdullah. Forming a working majority among the various political factions will not be easy. For Archbishop Simon Poh of Kuching, “Seek harmony, mutual respect and acceptance. Religious extremism and fundamentalism have no place here in Sarawak nor in Malaysia.”

 

Kuching (AsiaNews) – Anwar Ibrahim, historic opposition leader and head of the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), was sworn in as prime minister on 24 November before the King of Malaysia, Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, Sultan of Pahang.

Now he faces a hard task, that of forming a government after none of the country's three main coalitions reached a majority in parliament in last Saturday’s elections.

Pakatan Harapan won 82 seats, Perikatan Nasional (National Alliance) 73, and Barisan Nasional (National Front), the coalition led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which ruled for almost half a century after independence, only 30.

The new government's first task will be to address the slowdown in economic growth and reduce ethnic tensions that have flared up since last week's election.

In Sarawak (Borneo), Christian leaders have called on Gabungan Parti Sarawak (Sarawak Parties Alliance, GPS) not to be support and form the government with the Perikatan Nasional, which includes the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (Islamic Party of Malaysia, PAS). The GPS later today declared that it will join the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Yesterday in the capital of Sarawak, Kuching, at least five vehicles drove around the city chanting protest slogans and waving banners asking local residents to oppose the decision of the GPS to form a government with Perikatan Nasional.

“My position is (that) extremists cannot be allowed – let alone encouraged and supported – to normalise their hatred of other races and people of other faiths,” said Anglican Bishop Danald Jute said.

“It is important that we protect harmony and mutual respect and acceptance in Sarawak," said Catholic Archbishop Simon Poh of Kuching speaking to AsiaNews. “Religious extremism and fundamentalism have no place here in Sarawak nor in Malaysia,” he explained.

“Let us go back to our forefathers’ founding principles of Malaysia and enshrine Rukun Negara (national principles),” the philosophy on which the idea of a Malaysian nation is based, similar to Pancasila in neighbouring Indonesia.

Rukun Negara were formulated in 1970 at a time of social and political conflict in the country.

For Archbishop Poh, who chairs the Association of Churches in Sarawak, their aim is “achieving and fostering better unity among society, preserving a democratic way of life, creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair manner, ensuring a liberal approach towards the rich and varied cultural traditions, and building a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology.”

The prelate notes that “Christian churches in Sarawak want first to ensure harmony and mutual acceptance and reject any extremism or fundamentalism that threatens the fabric of Sarawak and our nation Malaysia.”

Christians in Malaysia are about 9 per cent of the population. Concentrated in the states of Sabah and Sarawak, they have often been politically and ecnomically marginalised in the past.

According to analysts, it is likely that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was chosen by the sovereign because he is the only candidate who could unite the different factions of the country.

If Pakatan Harapan does what it pledged during the campaign, it will have to follow its vision of treating fairly every Malaysian, regardless of race.

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