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Catholic priest denies he intended to sell hymnals in Malaysia

Police investigation 'unconstitutional', says rights lawyer

Elizabeth Zachariah for the Malaysian Insider

Elizabeth Zachariah for the Malaysian Insider

Published: December 16, 2014 05:20 AM GMT

Updated: December 15, 2014 05:20 PM GMT

Catholic priest denies he intended to sell hymnals in Malaysia

Father Cyril Mannayagam (Photo courtesy of Johor-Malacca Diocese)

Father Cyril Mannayagam, the Catholic priest in the middle of Malaysia’s latest "Allah" controversy, on Tuesday denied that he was attempting to sell the 31 hymnal books police seized from him recently.

He said he would not have had to photocopy the books titled "Kepujian Kepada Tuhan Allah" and paid more than RM140 (about US$40) for them if he was going to sell them at the shop.

"Why would I 'photostat' the books then? Besides they would have had to pay me instead of me paying them if I were selling the books," he said.

"This is ridiculous," he said of the police's claims that he was trying to sell the books.

Johor deputy CID chief Assistant Commissioner Dennis Lim had said police received a tip-off that the hymn books were being sold in a bookshop in Tangkak on December 5.

Father Cyril was detained for questioning, when he went back to the shop to collect the books, which he had sent for photocopying earlier that day.

Father Cyril, who has worked with the Orang Asli for more than four years, had said that the books were meant for a Christmas service for some 100 Orang Asli parishioners, who were all Catholics.

He said the hymnal book was prepared by the indigenous community and had been in use for their worship services for many years.

The priest was later released after questioning but police are still holding the 31 books and investigating him under Section 298A of the Penal Code, for causing disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will on grounds of religion.

Lim had also denied that police detained Father Cyril and said they had only questioned him and recorded his statement before allowing him to leave.

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However, the 44-year-old priest said what he went through was detention, as the police had seized the identity cards of both him and a fellow parishioner, who was with him at that time.

"And they made us follow them to the police station, which is situated opposite the shop. We were put in a room and were not allowed to leave until my lawyer came," he said.

Human rights lawyer Andrew Khoo said it was unlawful for police to use Section 298A of the Penal Code to investigate the priest as it was declared invalid in the then Supreme Court's hearing of the 1988 case of Mamat bin Daud vs the Government of Malaysia.

The country's highest court, the Supreme Court as it was called then, had ruled that Section 298A was unconstitutional as it was a provision in the Penal Code, and as such had no power to legislate over Islamic matters. As an instrument of civil law and created by Parliament, Section 298A's impact on Islamic law was unconstitutional. Under the constitution, religion is a matter for the states.

"This means you cannot charge anyone under this law. The Supreme Court had ruled that it cannot be applied to non-Muslims and was unconstitutional, except in the Federal Territories," said Khoo, who is Bar Council human rights committee chairman.

"The Johor police may say that they are only using the law to investigate, but they have proceeded to investigate and have seized materials under a provision in the law that has been rendered unconstitutional."

Calling it "outrageous", Khoo said that the police have acted unlawfully in Father Cyril’s case as they had used the same law to detain him, seize the hymnal books and launch an investigation against him.

Father Cyril expressed dismay at the seizure of the hymn books and said he would consider suing the police, saying the freedom to worship as enshrined in the Federal Constitution, was not being adhered to.

Police have said that the Attorney-General's Chambers will be deciding whether the books should be returned to Father Cyril.


Original Stories: Hymnals with ‘Allah’ not for sale, says priest under probeUnconstitutional law used to investigate ‘Allah’ hymnals, says lawyer

Source:The Malaysian Insider

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