Churches in Sabah are skipping this year’s National Day celebrations and are making Aug 31 a day of prayer to “Remember Sabah our homeland” instead.
The move to celebrate Sabah’s independence on this day 51 years ago is made on the wake of increasing unhappiness with Putrajaya over the ‘Allah’ issue and Islamisation, land rights and security issues, and the inundation of foreigners who have been given residence and citizenship, among the many issues confronting the Land Below the Wind.
Usually the Kota Kinabalu City Hall joins hands with the influential Pastors’ Fellowship of Kota Kinabalu (PFKK) to host the National Day celebrations at the town padang or a public venue.
However, according to the pastors, this year churches will celebrate the occasion within church premises as part of its Sunday services.
Some churches have also decided to hold combined services this Sunday.
The call to prayer has been mass-mail blasted today to all churches not only in Sabah but throughout the country in English, Malay and Chinese to explain the context for the call to prayer.
According to the prayer guidelines, this year’s celebrations is to call into remembrance the “forgotten history of Sabah” that it gained independence on Aug 31, 1963 and not 1957 which is the independence day for Malaya.
However, they would be celebrating Malaysia Day on Sept 16 as a national day as this is the day Malaysia was formed in which Sabah became an equal partner of Malaya together with Sarawak, and not merely as one of the 14 states and territories.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), which is the umbrella body for Christians, is also making a distinction between the two commemorative dates in a call to national prayer two days ago.
It said plainly “churches will commemorate the 57th Anniversary of Merdeka (for Malaya on Aug 31) and the 51st anniversary of the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia (on Sept 16).”
“Our experience of this past year, however, has been marred by the painful memory of two incidences; first, our sacred Scriptures being seized from the premises of the Bible Society of Malaysia and second, the refusal of the Federal Court to grant leave to the Roman Catholic Church to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal in the Herald case.
“We continue to be concerned for the status of the seized Bibles and the outcome of other cases pending in the courts related to the use of the word ‘Allah by Christians.
‘An escalation in extremism’
CFM also pointed out that, “In addition to these, we are also witnessing an escalation in ethnic and religious extremism, where unchecked sectarian forces of hatred and bigotry, often fuelled by misinformation and misinterpretation, lies and inflammatory speeches, are ripping apart the social fabric of our nation that had been built on the principles of moderation and multi-culturalism. We believe that all Malaysians truly have cause for concern.”
The Sabah prayer guidelines in outlining the events that shaped the history of Sabah also highlights the hurt over the prohibition of the ‘Allah’ word.
“As Sabah is known as the Land Below the Wind, we pray that the wind of the Holy Spirit will sweep over the land bringing a spiritual reawakening and refreshing.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there will be freedom so we pray for the wind of the Holy Spirit to blow mightily so everyone is free to call upon the Lord God Almighty in their own language,” the prayer guidelines pointed out.
It also pointed out that Sabah state constitution was amended to make Islam the state’s official religion in 1973 despite the assurance that there will be no official religion for Sabah and the guarantee of complete freedom of religion in the 20-point conditions attached to the Malaysia Agreement.
On the influx of illegal immigrants, the prayer guidelines said, “Since 1970s, Sabah has been flooded by illegal immigrants especially from Southern Philippines and Indonesia, many of whom have been given blue ICs under suspicious circumstances.”
Meanwhile, many Anak Negeri (natives) in the interior of Sabah till today have only been issued ‘red’ ICs indicating they are stateless persons.
The prayer guidelines also contend that Sabah natives enjoy the same protection and special position as peninsular Malays under Article 153 of the federal constitution.
In recalling the history of Sabah, the prayer guidelines point to the provision of border security, self-management of land and resources, self-government for Sabah.
But it said the 13 May 1969 racial riots in the peninsula resulted in Sabah getting a poor bargain in petroleum royalties from the federal government.
It claims that Sabah was subjected to the Continental Shelf Act 1966 and the Petroleum Mining Act 1966, gazetted under the Emergency Proclamation declared by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on May 15, 1969 (following the May 13 riots).
It added that Sabah lost her top leaders in the Double 6 plane crash on June 6, 1976 and two weeks after Sabah signed the Petronas agreement where, “any oil above and beneath the land in Malaysia belongs to federal government”. This was not even brought to the state assembly.
Sabah ceded Labuan as a federal territory to the federal government on April 16, 1984, again without reference to the state assembly.