By Andrew Lo
December 8, 2013
I WANT to start this week’s column by saying that I agree 100% with the remark made by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud on Wednesday.
I may be critical of Taib sometimes, but I salute him wholeheartedly on this brave and sincere statement.
He said, and I quote: “The government and every Muslim in the country are duty bound to ensure that Islam remains strong but not in confrontation with other religions. Instead, Muslims should safeguard the freedom of worship by other communities.”
Taib went on to say that even in the Quran, it was mentioned that before Islam could establish its government in Medina, the relationship between Muslims, Christians and the Persians then was very cordial. The Piagam Madinah (Charter of Medina) stated that the Jews and Christians in Medina could practice their respective faiths freely. Likewise in Malaysia, members of our multi-racial and multi-religious society have been tolerant towards each other.
Thus, Taib urged Malaysians to reject all forms of religious extremism for the sake of continued peace and harmony in this country.
He also suggested that Muslims themselves, particularly the intellectuals, to strive for having in-depth understanding of Islam, so that they in turn could lead others to follow the right path and not be easily influenced by religious fanatics.
I share our Chief Minister’s concern about rising controversies related to religious issues in Malaysia, of which he said Islam must never be used as the means to advance political causes or to score political points.
“Sarawak has such a long period of peace and harmony even before Malaysia was formed. However, of late, religious issues have been stirred up by certain groups of people in the country that is jeopardising peace and harmony in the country.
“This is not good for us as a nation. Islam is a very tolerant religion. Islam is fair to people of all races and of all faiths. Islam does not oppress people of other faiths. Islam is the official religion of the country, but it also stresses that every other religion can be practiced freely by the people.
“Islam protects the rights of people of every other faith. Islam and every religion teach us not to do bad things unto others. However, there have been instances lately where certain people, who practice extreme ideologies, use Islam against others. This is wrong. This is against the very basic principles of Islam. It is against the teaching of Islam for a Muslim to oppress people of other religions,” he said.
He reminded Muslims that they must live in harmony with people of other religions because Islam came later than religions like Christianity and Judaism.
“This is not a case of working out a compromise. Being tolerant and fair is not a case of being politically-correct or compromising our stance as a Muslim.
“Being tolerant and fair to others is actually the very basic principle of Islam. History has shown that Islam is a tolerant and fair religion. However, human attitude has used Islam in political ideology. This is actually a political motive and it is wrong,” Taib was quoted as having said.
Speaking on political motive, I am quite aghast at politicians’ reaction to the decision by Selangor State Assembly to raise the salaries and allowances of its Mentri Besar (MB), Exco members and assemblyman by between of 87% and 373%.
Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron and other Barisan Nasional leaders claimed that the Selangor government’s decision on the pay rise would not bring any benefit to the people, but would increase its administration cost.
“They are showing their true colours by spending the people’s money for themselves,” he was quoted as saying recently. Moreover, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said although there was a basis for the salary hikes, it did not make sense for the Selangor Assembly to give increments of up to 373% to its members.
To me, while the percentage may seem high, the absolute figures are not all that much.
I must ask Muhyiddin why he did not question the decision by Sarawak State Assembly to approve a similar increase in April this year.
The monthly remuneration of Sarawak Chief Minister, state ministers and assemblymen, Speakers and political secretaries were tripled in May this year.
The remuneration of the CM will rise from RM13,000 to RM39,000 while his deputy RM11,500 to RM35,000; the senior minister and Speaker, RM9,000 to RM30,000; the minister, RM9,000 to RM27,000; the assistant minister and Deputy Speaker, RM7,000 to RM21,000; assemblymen, RM4,500 to RM15,000 and political secretaries, RM3,000 to RM9,000.
Readers will remember that I welcomed this increase. Given the huge responsibility of the CM and MB, they should be paid at least RM50, 000 to RM100, 000 a month. I was actually shocked that our CM was previously getting only RM13, 500 a month. After some 40 years of service, he was still paid less than some bank branch managers!
And our YBs were getting only RM4, 500 a month, which was less than what Sarawak Bank Employees’ Union (SBEU) is paying me and what the banks are paying some of their clerks!
To those who are against the increase, this is the wrong approach and will lead us to a vicious circle and drag everyone down. The amount that they are getting certainly cannot support the necessary expenses and lifestyle that comes with the position. They have families to feed. How can we expect our ministers and assemblyman to serve the people in a sincere and transparent way if they themselves are struggling to put food on the table for their families?
We must adopt a professional approach and pay our leaders well for their work. Of course, we must also get rid of those who do not perform.
I always believe that if you pay peanuts, you’d get monkeys.