A day after the Malaysian government backtracked on the unpopular toll hike increase, it made another U-turn. It reversed a decision to allow church publications to use the word ‘Allah’.
Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar attributed the original decision to lift the ban, contained in a government gazette dated Feb 16, to a ‘mistake’.
‘The government’s stand on the ban has not changed,’ he said last Saturday, but did not explain how the mistake was made. The government had earlier issued a gazette permitting Christian publications to use the word ‘Allah’ provided that the words ‘For Christians’ were printed clearly on the cover.
This came after months of wrangling between the church and government over this sensitive issue. There is strong Muslim sentiment against the use of the word ‘Allah’ to refer to the god of other faiths.
The gazette would be revoked, Datuk Seri Syed Hamid said. He was quoted in Mingguan Malaysian as saying that it was not his decision.
This is the second U-turn in as many days. Last Friday, the government backtracked on an unpopular toll hike after facing criticism among its own ranks, and even from Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.
The flip-flopping is clearly due to the political pressure that the government is facing as it faces up to an endless string of by-elections as well as party polls in Umno, the dominant component of the ruling Barisan Nasional.
Three by-elections loom: The two in Perak and Kedah have been fixed for April 7, while a third in Sarawak has yet to be fixed.
Umno party polls will take place at the end of this month.
The government is clearly mindful that it can ill-afford unpopular toll hikes that would become election fodder for the opposition.
Barisan Nasional government reverses 2 decision within days