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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Registrar of Societies postpones ‘routine’ check of Bible Society office

Bible Society of Malaysia honorary secretary Rev Mathew Punnoose speaks to the press at his office in  Petaling Jaya today. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, June 30, 2015. Bible Society of Malaysia honorary secretary Rev Mathew Punnoose speaks to the press at his office in Petaling Jaya today. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, June 30, 2015.
The Registrar of Societies (RoS) postponed a so-called "routine" check of the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) at its Petaling Jaya headquarters today to another date, but the Christian organisation is no clearer on the purpose of the inspection, its honorary secretary Rev Mathew Punnoose said.
He said while BSM welcomed the visit, no reasons had been given, adding that they wished to know the reasons for the check.
"BSM welcomes the proposed visit of the RoS in the spirit of transparency and accountability but we would like to know the reasons for such a routine check under Section 63 which does not provide for it," Mathew said.
Section 63 of the Societies Act allows the RoS to enter the premises of any registered society to conduct a search and to inspect documents, such as accounts and minutes of meetings.
News portal Malaysiakini yesterday reported that the RoS was to inspect BSM today for unspecified reasons, and described the action as "harassment".
BSM, which imports and distributes Bibles for use in Malasia, was in the limelight last year after 351 copies of Malay Bibles, called Alkitab, as well as Iban Bibles, were seized in a raid by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) because the holy books contained the word "Allah".
BSM was notified by email on June 23 of an inspection under Section 63 of the Societies Act scheduled to be held today at 1pm and was subsequently told that it was a "routine check".
But Mathew received a call this morning from RoS Selangor saying that the inspection had been postponed, he told reporters waiting outside the office today.
He said BSM had not engaged in any activity which contravened the Societies Act.
"The object of the society has always been to provide and make available Bibles in various languages," he added.
As such, he said they have requested RoS Selangor to state the reasons for such a visit, adding that this was the first time for such a "routine check" had been requested since BSM was formed in 1984.
Section 63 also states that RoS may inspect a registered society if it is believed that the society is "carrying on activities in contravention of any provision of this Act or any regulations made thereunder or any of its rules".
The seized Alkitab and Iban Bibles were returned to Christians – not to the peninsula-based BSM – but to Sarawak Christians via the Association of Churches Sarawak (ACS) in November 2014.
This arrangement was part of the conditions of return that such material was not to be distributed in Selangor, especially among Muslims, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) later said.
- TMI

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