Home Ministry bans Herald’s Malay supplement


The good news is that the Home Ministry has approved the Herald’s permit a couple of days before it expired – just in the nick of time.

The other bit of good news, according to the NST,  is that the paper apparently has been allowed to expand its scope beyond coverage of “religion” in the narrowest sense. The new permit allows it to also cover “current affairs” and “international affairs”.  Previously, the Home Ministry had issued warning letters for articles that allegedly went beyond the scope of “religion” (according to the government’s narrow definition).

The bad news on New Year’s Day is that the approval comes with strings attached:

  • the Herald has to stop its Malay-language supplement. A typical edition of the weekly paper has 32 pages, including an eight-page Malay-language pull-out, three pages in Chinese and two pages in Tamil, with the rest in English.
  • the paper can only be sold in churches (I don’t think it’s being sold anywhere else at present);
  • The Herald must print clearly on the cover that the paper is only meant for Christians.

It is worth bearing in mind that 65 per cent of all Christians in Malaysia (as at the year 2000) are ‘bumiputeras’ from Sabah and Sarawak and this figure is rising.  (It was 63 per cent in 1991.) Most of these are Kadazans, Dayaks and Dusuns, many of whom mainly use the Malay language.

In that sense, the Malaysian church has a bumiputera majority.  So by denying the majority of its church members the right to read in Malay, the national language, isn’t the government violating a fundamental right?

This reminds me of the time when Aliran was denied the right to publish a magazine in Malay in addition to its English edition. We took the case to court and won at the High Court. But the law was then amended to make the Minister’s decision final and we lost in the Supreme Court and Aliran ended up having to pay costs!

Meanwhile, the Church has taken the government to court over its ban on the use of the term “Allah”.  It may resort to similar action over the ban on publishing in Malay.

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Sivin Kit
1 Jan 2009 10.16pm

This move by the Home Ministry on the Malay-Language section is disappointing. It’s like denying the National Language’s ownership to to Christians especially in the light of many of our brothers and sisters who use it as their first language or main language of communication. As for the “For Christians only” label … well, to me if it’s news or even views, it’s meant to be read and reflected by all. I believe my Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and even Atheist (or Agnostic) friends would want their publications to be read by all. If not how can we even understand each… Read more »

Dalbinder Singh Gill
Dalbinder Singh Gill
1 Jan 2009 10.10pm

i just hope pak lah interferes and solves this issue…

1 Jan 2009 10.08pm

I find the part ‘For Christians only’ rather patronizing.

1 Jan 2009 10.08pm

Obvious that people behind the ban are protecting the ordinary Malays from reading about Christianity(or any other religion). It should be clear that Malays can always read about other religions in English. The assumption must be that Malays who can ready English are not easily “converted”. But the poor kampung malays who only read and speak Malay cannot be allowed to read about other religion. Once they read, they will be converted! I suggest that the government pass a law banning Malays from reading about other religion whether in English or any other language. In that way the Malays will… Read more »

1 Jan 2009 10.03pm

With 65% of the Catholics being Bumiputra and only read and understand the Malay language, by disallowing the publication of the Herald in Malay is denying these people their basic rights to information of their own chosen religion. Thats against our basic human rights but then again, what would Syed Hamid Allblur know anything about human rights….

1 Jan 2009 9.13pm

what’s with the inferiority complex???