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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

SIB appeals to Federal Court to get documents in 'Allah' case

 


The Federal Court will decide whether to grant leave to Sidang Injil Borneo and its reverend to appeal to compel the Home Ministry to disclose documents backing its ban on the church’s right to use the word “Allah”.

SIB and Reverend Jerry Dusing’s counsel Lim Heng Seng today said that the apex court’s upcoming decision is over the duo’s main legal action seeking a declaration that the church has the fundamental right to use the word in publications and for educational purposes.

The church is appealing against a Court of Appeal ruling which upheld the High Court in Kuala Lumpur’s dismissal of the church’s discovery application for the documents.

“We have appealed to the Federal Court and are now waiting for the apex court’s decision whether to grant us (SIB) leave to commence with the appeal.

“We made the discovery application for the documents as we wanted to know the basis for the minister’s decision that the use of the word 'Allah' (by non-Muslims) would constitute a threat to public order.

“We feel that in these kinds of cases, they (the authorities) ought to disclose the documents for transparency,” Lim told Malaysiakini.

He added that once the decision date is fixed, the Federal Court would inform the parties about it.

Lim Heng Seng

The church is seeking two sets of documents, whereby the first set includes letters and minutes of meetings containing the reason for the government’s 1986 ban on non-Muslims from using the word “Allah”.

This includes documents allegedly showing confusion among Malaysians or misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians over the use of the word “Allah” in Bahasa Malaysia editions of Christian publications, or which show threats to public order due to non-Muslims’ use of the word.

The second set of documents sought were those that gave the approval to import, publish, produce, distribute or own any Christian publications with the word “Allah”.

On Oct 16, 2017, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur dismissed the discovery application, ruling that there was no necessity to make such an order in the judicial review application. 

Its then judge Nor Bee Ariffin reportedly said the matter can be decided based on affidavits and available documents exhibited in the case.

At the High Court stage, the government objected to disclosure of the documents as they were deemed official secrets.

On Oct 12 this year, the Court of Appeal dismissed the church’s appeal against the High Court decision. 

The three-person bench, chaired by Court of Appeal judge Suraya Othman, ruled that the discovery application was not necessary, among others.

SIB and Dusing filed the legal action on Dec 10, 2007, following the seizure of three boxes of Bahasa Malaysia language Christian educational books containing the word “Allah” by the Customs Department.

The seizure was carried out at the then Low-Cost Carrier Terminal in Sepang in August that same year.

The books have since been returned to SIB in 2008.

The church, however, seeks a court declaration that it has the constitutional right to use the word “Allah” in publications and for educational purposes. - Mkini

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