FEB 8, 2021: The Catholic Church in Malaysia is asking the country’s leaders to not exploit the present Covid-19 pandemic. The bishops say the pandemic should not be politicised and also any form of corruption in the procurement and distribution of the vaccines must be avoided.
“The pandemic cannot be used to politicise or divide Malaysians. We call on our leaders to put aside any differences in order to steer the country and help rebuild our lives and that of the nation. The lives of the rakyat must be at the forefront in overcoming this turbulent period,” said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia in a pastoral letter dated Feb 4, 2021. The letter was addressed to “People of God”.
The letter also talked about the need for transparency. “The citizens have a right to information with regard to transparent procurement and equitable distribution. It is morally inadmissible to aggravate human suffering with any form of corruption.”
“Great care should be taken to ensure that no individual or any organisation exploits the situation for any form of financial gain.”
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia also said that public safety must be given due consideration by the regulatory bodies when selecting the right vaccines. “A standard must be set and this standard must not be loosely compromised.”
They also stressed on the right of the people to information. Apart from the right to be informed of procurement and distribution details, Malaysians ought to also have the right to know details about the vaccines. “The general population has a right to proper and accurate information – not only scientific facts but also the ethical facts so that persons of faith may have the clarity of mind to make informed decisions.”
The issue of vaccine accessibility was also brought up in the letter. “The accessibility to the vaccine should not be only for the privileged. Even though vaccinations may begin with those who have greater needs, (e.g. front liners, elderly, sick, etc.), the government must ensure that everyone should have equitable access to the vaccine, especially the vulnerable and those in the margins of society who may not be able to afford the vaccines.”
The Catholic Church’s position in the dissemination of information to the public to address vaccine hesitancy was stated in the first half of the letter. The other half focused on the Church’s stand on the vaccine (see related story).
The pastoral letter was signed by all who are in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia: Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Most Rev Julian Leow Beng Kim who is also the president of the conference, Bishop of Penang Rev Sebastian Francis, Bishop of Malacca Johore Rev Bernard Paul, Archbishop of Kota Kinabalu Most Rev John Wong, Bishop of Keningau Rev Cornelius Piong, Bishop of Sandakan Rev Julius Gitom, Archbishop of Kuching Most Rev Simon Poh, Bishop of Miri Rev Richard Ng, and Bishop of Sibu Rev Joseph Hii.