Corrected 1.25pm, 25 Feb 2009
KUALA LUMPUR, 24 Feb 2009: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng today denied that the state government had formed the Inter-Faith Consultative Council and described a report on its formation as defaming the state government.
Angered by today’s front-page report in Utusan Malaysia, entitled DAP hina Islam?, Lim, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bagan, plans to sue the newspaper and Penang Islamic Religious Council (MAINPP) president, Shabudin Yahya.
“The Penang state government never formed the Inter-Faith Consultative Council as mentioned by (MAINPP) president Shabudin. I don’t know which source told him that we have set up the consultative council.
“I will instruct my lawyer to sue Utusan Malaysia and Shabudin. I feel this has gone too far and is unacceptable.
“We will meet in court. I will ask Utusan (Malaysia) and Shabudin to reply and pay compensation and appropriate damages and also to make a public apology.
“Although there is a question mark (in the headline), in law, this is also considered as defamatory because there is no Inter-Faith Consultative Council. If there is proof, we will meet in court.
“I chaired the exco (state executive council) meeting, I know what is going on in the state government,” he said at a press conference at the Parliament lobby.
In the press report, Shabudin claimed that the council was set up last year when the opposition coalition led by Lim took over the administration of Penang. Shabudin said the move was an attempt to insult Islam by placing it on par with the other faiths, adding that that must be stopped.
Lim said the suit against Utusan Malaysia and Shabudin would be filed in his capacity as the Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general.
“I know that they will use the issue for the coming by-elections and we won’t allow them to spread such lies,” he added.
In BUKIT MERTAJAM, Shabudin clarified that his statement on the consultative council was based on reports published in newspapers earlier.
He said he had proof to support his statement yesterday.
“I obtained information on the council through reports published in the press,” he said when asked to comment on Lim’s statement.
(Corrected) Asked on Lim’s plan to sue Utusan Malaysia which published the report on the council’s formation, Shabudin said: “If he wants to sue, go ahead. We have proof.”
Shabudin was today quoted by Utusan Malaysia as saying that the attempt to place Islam on equal footing with the other faiths was an obvious insult to Islam.
PM needs clearer picture
In KUALA LUMPUR, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said he wanted a detailed document on the inter-faith council in Penang to obtain a clearer picture.
The Prime Minister said he would only comment on the matter after obtaining the detailed document.
“I’ve already read but have yet to receive a clearer picture on the council. I’ve already told the officers concerned to obtain the document pertaining to the implementation by the Penang state government.
“So far I only read what had been reported. If the report is not accurate, I will then create a new problem which should not arise,” he told reporters after chairing a meeting in Parliament today.
He said whatever action taken or proposal made on Islam, Islam’s position as the official federal religion must be recognised and its status preserved.
“This is confirmed,” he said. — Bernama