I didn’t want to make matters worse, says Jeffrey over PAS MP’s Bible remark

Jeffrey Kitingan says PAS MP Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh should not have brought his bigotry to Parliament. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Jeffrey Kitingan said today he was not among the first to respond to a PAS MP’s remarks about the Bible as he believed doing so would only make the situation worse.

Kitingan, who is the Keningau MP, said he was in a quandary over whether to respond to Pasir Puteh MP Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh’s remarks as he believed that a Malaysian’s belief or faith should not be made political fodder.

“Religion should not be politicised,” he said in a statement. “In Sabah, we live peacefully despite being a multi-ethnic (society) and with a multi-belief system.

“We view our religions as teachings of peace and not used as instruments of hate. Therefore, his action has left us utterly perplexed.”

Referring to a statement by Warisan treasurer-general Terrence Siambun, Kitingan said Siambun was right when he said there was no need to engage Zawawi in a dialogue.

“That was my exact position, to respond to Pasir Puteh’s (Zawawi) impudence will only exacerbate matters and prolong the issue. It’s like pouring oil onto flames with no positive conclusion.

“And I trusted that Malaysians, particularly Sabahans, are mature and sensible enough to see that Zawawi was just being impudent and boorish. His obtuse response that Christians have no right to be offended underscored his lack of Malaysian spirit.

“As a leader and lawmaker, upholding peace and law of the land is paramount. And I had hoped to be able to address this behind closed doors to spare Malaysians the irreversible feelings of resentment and suspicion it will no doubt cast on our citizens of various races and religions. This is a divisive issue.”

Last week, Zawawi had alleged in the Dewan Rakyat that biblical injunctions about drinking alcohol had been “distorted or altered”, and that the Bible had formerly outlawed the consumption of alcohol.

His remarks brought protests from politicians in Sabah and Sarawak, and a Sarawak archbishop who called for a retraction and an apology. A sedition report was also filed against Zawawi in Kuching.

Kitingan said there were, however, some who had taken the opportunity to exploit this divisive issue for political mileage.

“They threw caution to the wind. It is not done out of pure concern for justice but for political gain.

“My advice is, be careful that you do not end up with a Pyrrhic victory (a victory that comes at a cost and is tantamount to defeat). What’s the point of winning if the cost of victory is burning the house down?”

Kitingan called on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, as the de facto leader of Perikatan Nasional, to take appropriate action against Zawawi to stem such outbursts in future.