PUTRAJAYA: The awarding of land to religious institutions in the heart of the Federal Government’s administrative capital is testament to religious freedom in Malaysia, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (pic).
Commenting on the 0.27ha government land at Precinct 20 here that has been allocated for a national Buddhist centre, the MCA deputy president said its significance cannot be downplayed.
“This shows that even though Islam is the country’s official religion, followers of other religions are allowed to practice freely,” he told reporters after chairing a dialogue session with members of the Malaysian Champions Club at Menara Usahawan yesterday.
Dr Wee noted that Buddhists are the second largest religious group in Malaysia, after Muslims, adding that the new move reaffirms their rights as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
“This had been the understanding during Malaysia’s independence. We, the next generation, are truly witnessing religious freedom in Malaysia with the setting up of this iconic Buddhist centre,” he said.
On Sunday, a ground-breaking ceremony was held here for the Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia’s national headquarters when completed by August 2018.
The society will be raising RM8mil to build the two-storey building with a garden rooftop and a built-up area of 1,858sqm.
Land nearby will also be used for other places of worship as part of the Government’s plan to have a multi-religious enclave here.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism secretary-general Prematilaka Serisena, hailed the move but stressed that religious freedom is more than just allowing the construction of houses of worship.
“The Government should take heed of sensitive religious issues plaguing our society.
“More broadly, religious freedom means that people are free to practise their faith without obstacles, prejudices or fear,” he said.
Malaysian Buddhist chief high priest Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana, while lauding the Government’s move, said more should be done to address issues affecting religious freedom in a multi-religious society.
Sri Dhammaratana said misinterpretation of religious texts by those lacking in-depth knowledge has led to “minor” misunderstandings.
“We should not look at the minor problems but at the bigger picture to ensure peace and harmony for the country,” he said.