We are not against any religion: Malaysian Bar Council chief

March 15th, 2009 - 1:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, March 15 (IANS) Saying that the Malaysian Bar Council (MBC) was not against any religion, its newly elected president Ragunath Kesavan, an ethnic Indian, has announced plans to hold discussions on issues that are considered ‘touchy’.
“We need to look at how to deal with conflicts relating to religion and race,” he said on being elected the new president Saturday at the MBC’s 63rd annual meeting here.

Kesavan succeeded another ethnic Indian, Ambiga Sreenevasan, who was honoured as one of the eight “women of substance” by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this month.

“By inviting representatives from non-governmental organisations, Muslim activists… we can better understand the issues and exchange views,” Kesavan was quoted as saying by The New Straits Times.

Asked on the possibility that the council might be facing legal action for holding an online poll on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims in their publications, he said what had been done was done in the interest of the public.

The issue pertains to the dispute over the use of the word on the masthead of a journal meant for the Christian community. Challenged by Muslim groups and sought to be barred by the government, the matter is in court.

Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society with majority Muslim Malays and ethnic Chinese and Indians practicing different faiths.

Asked to comment on the perception that the bar council was anti-establishment and pro-opposition, he laughed and said 90 percent of what the bar council did was “complementary with what the government wants”.

Among the motions proposed by the bar council was one on detention without trial and deaths in police custody.

Kesavan said the laws were a violation of the rule of law and principles of a democratic government.

Five activists of the banned Hindu Rights Action Force are among the estimated 80 detainees under the Internal Security Act.

Kesavan urged the government to investigate all deaths in police custody and called for the setting up of a commission to investigate such deaths.

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