| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 19 Nov 2015 | Asia Samachar |
Protecting the Sikh religion is one area where the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC) believes it has made some significant contributions over the last few years.
Some of the other areas are ensuring practice of a standardised Sikh Rehat Maryada (SRM) in various gurdwaras, facilitating entry permits for granthis and raagis, and actively liaising with relevant Government bodies on matters concerning the Sikhs.
“On issues which affects our religious rights, if you are quiet, you will be bound by the decisions,” MGC president Jagir Singh tells Asia Samachar in a recent interview.
JAGIR SINGH INTERVIEW ON MGC: PART 1
JAGIR SINGH INTERVIEW ON MGC: PART2
A former Federal prosecutor with the then Anti Corruption Agency (ACA), Jagir opened a law firm in 1992 after taking optional retirement from the government service.
He is also the author of Law of Bribery and Corruption published in 1994 by International Law Publishers, a book which he claims to be the only local law book on the subject today.
Jagir, 70, may face a challenge as he prepares to take up the MGC presidency for a third term at its annual general meeting on Saturday (21 Nov 2015).
Asked to sum up MGC in one sentence, Jagir says: “As a leader and provider of guidance to the gurdwaras in promoting the Sikh religion, Sikh culture, and providing assistance and leadership in putting forward their requests and needs.”
On recent success stories for the MGC team, Jagir pointed to a fully-functioning MGC secretariat with two full-time staff and a fully-paid up four-storey headquarters at Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, which it acquired for RM900,000 in 2009.
“When I came on board in 2005, the office was non-operational. The presidents were from outstation. We then employed a manager and office was opened daily. It has been going on till today,” he said.
PROTECTING SIKH RELIGION
Protecting the Sikh religion sounded like a huge claim. So, Asia Samachar asked him to explain.
Jagir shared a recent example in which he was personally involved. It involves the intervention of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) that led to the deferment of a proposed law that would have affected non-Muslim places of worship, including gurdwaras.
In August 2015, the Ministry of Federal Territories invited the MCCBCHST to discuss a draft law that proposed to control non-Muslim places of worship.
It proposed that these places of worship to register with Registrar of Societies (ROS). The proposed law also wanted to state that non-Muslim places of worship buildings cannot have Islamic culture, cannot be more than three storey high and cannot be in areas where Muslims are the majority.
“This area is my pet subject. I told the deputy minister [Dr Loga Balan] that the proposal for all religious places to be registered with the ROS is ultra virus under Article 11(3) of the Federal Constitution,” he said.
In the end, the meeting agreed to defer the move and study a proposal to set-up a non-Muslim affairs department at the Federal level.
“I have given an undertaking that I will put up a paper to the Minister of National Unity. I have spoken to the minister to take up the issue at the Cabinet level,” he said.
Jagir is current vice president of MCCBCHST, where he was the immediate past president.
Citing another example, Jagir said MGC had also been involved in assisting Sikhs who want to convert out of Islam.
“Some cases have to go to the Shariah Court. We do this on the quite to avoid the glare of publicity,” he said.
As mentioned earlier, some of the major concerns for the MGC are pushing for a standard SRM at gurdwaras, granthi permits, and liaising with relevant Government bodies on matters concerning the Sikhs.
On granthis, he said many of them lack formal training and qualifications, a challenge compounded with the inability of smaller gurdwaras to pay a salary that would attract qualified applicants.
On the SRM, he felt that there had been some success on the ground.
“Over years, a lot of good has come out of our activities. From my observation, 95% [of the gurdwaras] are following the SRM. They may not follow completely, but they do not have many glaring, obvious non-compliance,” he said.
On granthi management, Jagir said the MGC has presented a paper to the Ministry of Home Affairs to extend their stay from three to five years (annually renewed), bringing down the age limit to 30 from the present 40 years old, and allowing them to bring along their wives and children below 18.
MGC was set up in 1988. The initial moves started in 1983 with the formation of the interfaith organisation.
Initially, Sikh involvement was through the Khalsa Diwan Malaysia (KDM) and Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM). Local Sikh lawyer Joginder Singh and court interpreter Harcharan Singh from Sentul were some of the early Sikhs involved in the council.
“MGC was formed to represent the gurdwaras and the Sikh community,” said Jagir.
MGC’s objectives are to promote, preserve and maintain Sikh religion, Sikh identity, Sikh culture and Sikh heritage. It is also to coordinate and promote religious activities and maryada in gurdwaras according to the SRM, and protect the independence of the gurdwaras.
“To sum it up, our main objective is to carry out Sikhi parchaar, protect the Sikh religion and to ensure the rights of Sikhs are protected in accordance with the Federal constitution,” he said.
IN FULL INTERVIEW TO FOLLOW:
1. What happened to the Satkaar Committee that was supposed to come up with protocols for taking SGGS to homes?
2. What is the MGC role in Sikh representation to the Government?
3. How does MGC work with other Sikhs organisations?
4. MGC had been vocal in national matters like the Allah issue. Why? Does it not hurt the Sikh representation to the Government?
5. Some suggest that MGC have failed to provide leadership to gurdwaras when it comes to Sikhi parchaar. Your comments.
6. Challenges to get gurdwaras to abide by the standard practices as stipulated by the SRM?
7. Some of your actions are to be politically motivated. How true is this?
8. There may be a potential challenge to your leadership as MGC president at the AGM on Saturday. Your comments.
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]
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