Court decision a form of 'restriction', says Herald editor

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PUTRAJAYA (Aug 22): While the Catholic Church accepts the decision to deny its appeal to strike out the federal government's appeal in relation to the "Allah" dispute, its weekly publication's editor Rev Father Lawrence Andrew said that it was also a form of "restriction" on the enshrined constitutional right.

"Of course we are disappointed. I think the relevancy of the 10-point solution is valid because we are able to use the bible," said Lawrence, after the Court of Appeal disallowed the application brought by the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur.

The core of the church's argument today was the "10-point solution" drawn up amid the bible-seizing controversy in March 2009 which sparked nationwide discontent against the Barisan Nasional government.

Some 35,000 copies of the Malay-language bible bearing the home ministry authorisation was seized in consecutive consignments months by Customs officials after the ministry's ban on the Herald from using the term "Allah" in reference to God.

Copies of the holy scripture were under the ministry's lock until March 15, 2011, when it was released on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's instruction after Christian groups declared they were fed up and disillusioned with authorities' refusal to allow the distribution of the Malay-language bible.

On April 11 the same year, Najib had sent a letter containing what was dubbed a "10-point solution" to resolve the blockade on the use of  the Malay-language bible.

"In the Herald, we just quote the bible," Lawrence told reporters in a muffled voice.

S Selvarajah, the lead counsel in the case, added that it was "ridiculous" to allow the use of the controversial term in the bible but not the Herald.

The church had filed the application last month to strike out the federal government’s appeal against the landmark High Court judgment permitting the Herald to refer to God as "Allah" in its Malay-language edition, which was previously banned by the home ministry.

The church then proceeded to take legal action against the government for violating its religious freedom enshrined under the Federal Constitution.

The High Court in its 2009 decision then upheld the Catholic Church’s constitutional right to use the word.

"This is just making things impossible for us," said Lawrence.

Meanwhile, supporters of Malay rights NGO Perkasa as well as other right-wing movements who gathered at the compound of the apex court since early this morning were jubilant when the judgment was delivered.

Perkasa vice-president Zulkifli Noordin and JATI chief Datuk Hasan Ali, who were among the chief critics against the Catholic Church in the issue, were spotted greeting each other with a hug, cheerful over the first success the government has had since it lost its case at the High Court four years ago.

Elated over the refusal to strike out the church's application Perkasa secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali told reporters that the matter should not have been brought to the courts from the beginning.

"The term 'Allah' is exclusive to Muslim, we stand by that," he said.

The Court of Appeal will hear the government's appeal on the 2009 High Court decision on Sept 10.

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