MCO forces postponement of ruling on use of ‘Allah’ by Christians

The delivery of the verdict has already been postponed numerous times. (Reuters pic)

KUALA LUMPUR The High Court has again deferred delivering its ruling on a judicial review application by a Sarawakian to use the word “Allah” for the purpose of religious education.

Co-counsel Annou Xavier said judge Nor Bee Arifin was expected to make her decision on Jan 27, after the lifting of the movement control order.

“It was fixed for Jan 14 but the date has been vacated due to the MCO,” the lawyer said.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government had decided to implement the MCO in six states – Penang, Selangor, the Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan), Melaka, Johor and Sabah – for 14 days, from Wednesday until Jan 26.

The delivery of the verdict has been postponed 14 times after the judge, now promoted to the Court of Appeal, heard submissions from parties in 2017.

It was earlier fixed on Dec 21 and then Jan 14.

The judicial review was heard between Oct 19 and Nov 15, 2017. Nor Bee had then fixed to deliver her ruling on March 22, 2018.

The matter was adjourned 12 times for parties to seek an out of court solution to the use of the term Allah for East Malaysians and in publication materials.

Jill Ireland and the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Church in Sabah had first written to the Pakatan Harapan government after it took over power in May 2018 to settle the issue.

A five-member committee led by then home minister Muhyiddin Yassin was supposed to have been looking into the matter, Xavier said.

He said the others comprised then de facto religious affairs minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa and ministers Liew Vui Keong, Darell Leiking and Baru Bian, representing Sabah and Sarawak.

The PH government collapsed in late February, and Perikatan Nasional (PN) took over the reins of power.

The matter was then referred to a deputy minister from PN to have it resolved amicably but there was no resolution.

In 2008, Customs officers at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Sepang seized from Ireland eight CDs entitled “Cara Hidup Dalam Kerajaan Allah”, “Hidup Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah” and “Ibadah Yang Benar Dalam Kerajaan Allah”.

Ireland, a Melanau Christian, filed for a judicial review to reclaim the CDs, seeking several declaratory reliefs as well.

In 2014, the High Court ordered the home ministry to return the CDs to her but did not address the constitutional points as it was bound by a Federal Court ruling.

The following year, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court ruling but ordered it to hear Ireland’s application for the reliefs sought.

She now seeks a declaration that her constitutional right to practise her religion was violated by the restriction or ban of the import of educational materials.

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