Penang sets up exco portfolio for non-Islamic affairs

In News by

Himanshu Bhatt

GEORGE TOWN (Feb 16, 2011): Penang has set up a new state executive council (exco) portfolio for non-Islamic religious affairs, the first of its kind by a state government in the country.

The move, made in conjunction with the United Nation’s World Interfaith Harmony Week, is aimed at improving the handling of matters related to religious communities that include Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, Taoists and Hindus.

The idea was presented by Deputy Chief Minister (II) Prof Dr P. Ramasamy to the weekly state exco meeting, and approved last week.

The portfolio will come under the charge of the chief minister while Ramasamy will assume the deputy chairman post in the committee for the portfolio.

“Unlike the federal government’s Committee for the Promotion of Inter-religious Understanding and Harmony, this is not a committee but a full exco portfolio and it reflects the state government’s genuine concerns on all religious matters," Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said in a statement today.

Lim said the state was willing to work with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak who had expressed hope at the UN’s 65th General Assembly last year that he did not want any extremist or militant groups to threaten unity and security in Malaysia.

"The Penang state government is concerned at the existence of extremist groups who seek to racialise every event for their own selfish interests," Lim said.

"Penang has been under siege with attacks of being anti-Malay even if it involves only 10% Malays or one Malay out of 10 affected parties," he added, referring to attacks against a string of eviction and enforcement actions that involve various racial communities in the state.

Lim also noted that the new portfolio marks the celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week this week.

"Further, as George Town is a Unesco World Heritage city, the formation of this exco portfolio is timely as it promotes diversity and positive human interaction on cultural, religious and social spheres," he added.

"Despite our differences, we are united by our common aspirations for good practices and universal moral values of peace, justice, moderation and harmony. Co-operation not confrontation, mutual respect not tolerance, and understanding not ignorance will be the governing creed of this new Penang exco portfolio."