KOTA KINABALU: Former Sabah state secretary Simon Sipaun supports the views of a former inspector-general of police who said that Malaysia was never meant to be an Islamic country, and Sabah and Sarawak would not agree to make it so.
He said Abdul Rahim Mohd Noor, who was the country’s top cop from 1994 to 1999, was speaking the truth when he said Malaysia could lose the Borneo states if religious conflicts got out of hand due to the federal government continuing to succumb to pressure and becoming too Islamic.
“Rahim made the right point in his talk. I remember that when Malaysia was formed, the original objective was not to make it an Islamic state,” he told FMT.
Simon, who is founding chairman of anti-corruption NGO C4, said the assurance was clear and even provided for on the Keningau oath stone, which was inscribed with pledges in conjunction with Sabah’s decision to form Malaysia together with the Federation of Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore in 1963. Singapore left the new Malaysian federation two years later.
On Tuesday, Rahim had told a forum titled “Malaysia in the Future” held here, that when the idea of Malaysia was mooted, religion was the main issue addressed by the Cobbold Commission, which was formed in January 1962 to determine whether the people of Sabah (then North Borneo) and Sarawak supported the creation of the federation.
“The people in the Borneo states, all of them, regardless of race and religion, did not want an official religion for the new federation. The demand was reasonable,” he had said, expressing concern about Putrajaya caving in to pressure and becoming too Islamic.
“If we continue down this line, it will destabilise the federation and maybe at that time, Sabah and Sarawak will think again whether they want to continue to be in Malaysia or whether they should leave,” he told the forum.
Yesterday, Sabah PAS commissioner Mohd Aminuddin Aling was reported as saying that Rahim’s statement was dangerous as it could cause some people to want Sabah and Sarawak to depart from Malaysia.
Sipaun, who had moderated at the forum, said Rahim was expressing his concern over the increasing politicising of religion, with the government now legislating religion when the matter should be a personal affair.
Sipaun, who is also prominent human rights activist, said Rahim had no ill intent towards the religion which he himself professed.
“I was there. I heard what he said. We talked until very late that night. Rahim is against hudud (Islamic criminal punishment) law as pushed by PAS. But (was he) stirring conflict in Sabah? Far from it,” Sipaun said.
He said Rahim is a retired government servant and not a politician. Therefore, any attempt to paint him as some sort of a firebrand political figure, set on stirring conflicts among the people in Sabah, is wrong.
Sipaun, who believes that PAS has already lost any popularity it had among voters in Sabah, said the Islamist party perhaps wanted to capitalise on Rahim’s remarks to stay relevant in Sabah.
“Even if Sabah and Sarawak do want to get out of Malaysia, how can we do it? We have gone in, locked ourselves inside and thrown out the key. We cannot go out. I don’t know how Singapore did it but at least they are strong enough. We are not,” he said.