Move forward from forced conversion issue, Shafie urges people

Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal.

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Shafie Apdal has urged the people to move on from the row over his deputy Wilfred Madius Tangau’s remarks on forced conversions to Islam by a former state leader.

Shafie noted the public should not make too much of Tangau’s statement, which was uploaded on his Facebook account.

Asked on Tangau’s remarks, he said: “It’s okay. To me what’s important is we move forward. He was just stating that leaders should set an example … that’s all.

“Of course, others have their own intrepretations but my hope is that Malaysians in Sabah will move forward,” he told reporters after opening the state library here today.

Tangau came under fire after claiming a former state government leader had gone to the interior Tambunan district decades ago and forced people there to convert, threatening that they would not be given land or allowed to work if they didn’t.

He did not name the leader.

Earlier, in the same posting, the Tuaran MP had praised Shafie for approving a RM1 million donation for church repairs during a visit to the district recently before comparing this to the actions of the former leader.

Pressure group Suara Masyarakat Sabah, one of 20 NGOs and individuals who lodged a report against the Upko president, contended Tangau’s remarks had religious undertones.

Shafie said all Sabahans should focus on the more important issues at hand, adding history had taught the people that racial and religious issues should not be played up.

“Of course, we love our race and religion. That love is between us and God but it should not be a reason to fight. If it is divisive, why should we go for it?

“You fight for religion but if we spend half our lives looking in that direction, we may not be able to achieve what’s aspired by our younger generation,” he said.

He said what is of interest to the government is the need to develop Sabah, provide jobs and business opportunities.

“We don’t need to quarrel with each other. Efforts must be focused on using the knowledge and strength we have. We must use our unity to move forward and develop our state,” Shafie said.

The Semporna MP said the state government had always promoted harmony among the multi-ethnic groups in Sabah.

“We attend every function — Harvest Festival, Christmas and Hari Raya (among others).

“What does that indicate? We show to the people at large we respect each other; we respect other religions and races,” he said.

As such, he hoped that certain quarters do not exploit the church donation, saying he has also given contributions to other places of worship, including mosques.

“I am the chief minister of Sabah, not the chief minister of only one race or religion,” Shafie said.

Meanwhile, the Senallang assemblyman said he will leave it to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to announce on key things agreed to at a recent meeting involving the steering committee to review and implement the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

“We have already discussed a lot of things. Some of it have yet to be brought to the federal Cabinet for approval but in principle we have already agreed.

“I don’t want to spell out but we are progressing well,” he said.

Shafie said certain issues like the 40% net revenue owed to Sabah are still far off.

“It will take time because a lot needs to be refined. Whatever collections made from Sabah, 40% must be given back to Sabah,” he said.