A Catholic bishop in Malaysia urged the faithful to follow their conscience in electing new leaders in this week’s national elections.
“When we elect corrupt politicians we become accomplices. We become accomplices of evil when we pretend to be blind, deaf or dumb in the face of evil,” said Bishop Anthony Bernard Paul of the Diocese of Melaka-Johor.
“We therefore ask all young people in particular, vote based on your conscience,” the prelate said in letter distributed to parishes ahead of the November 19 elections.
“We are called to show the character of Christ. Let us free ourselves of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of all kinds,” wrote the bishop.
He said everyone is called “to treat all people with dignity, to show respect to all and to fear God.”
“Regardless of skin color or culture, origin or political beliefs, every human being is created in the image of God and deserves honor and respect,” wrote Bishop Paul.
“We are called to do good,” he said, adding that “while elections focus on rights, God calls His children to focus on responsibilities.”
“As Christians, we are called to do good so that the world sees our good works and glorifies our Father in Heaven, knowing that we will be accountable to God for how we have lived on this earth,” he said.
“We are called to be peacemakers and builders of bridges …. We are called to place our hope always in Christ and in the Gospel,” added the prelate.
About 21 million Malaysian citizens are expected to elect new members of the Lower House (“Dewan Rakyat”), which has a total of 222 seats, later this week.
To form a government, a coalition must achieve a majority of 112 seats.
Thousands evacuated ahead of polls
Meanwhile, thousands of people across Malaysia were evacuated into temporary shelters over the weekend as the seasonal monsoon’s heavy rain prompted turnout and safety concerns for the upcoming election.
“The prime minister has put the lives of voters at risk by holding elections during the monsoon season and, with climate change, I really fear heavier rainfall across Malaysia,” said Mahfuz Omar, an opposition MP from the northern Kedah state.
Malaysia’s meteorological department has forecast thunderstorms and incessant rain right up until 21 million voters will be able to cast ballots on Saturday, with more flooding expected.
The National Disaster Management Agency said in a statement over the weekend that six states in peninsular Malaysia had experienced flash flooding.”A total of 2,388 people have sought shelter in 25 relief centers,” it said.
“I fear voters will not be able to cast their votes if their homes are flooded and roads become impassable,” Mahfuz told AFP.
Mahfuz and others have accused Prime Minister Ismail Sabri of power grabbing by calling the polls almost a year ahead of schedule and while opposition forces are in disarray.
The ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) leaders are confident the early polls will result in a stronger mandate, but critics have said an election could distract the government from dealing with the effects of heavy monsoon rains that typically occur during this time of year, bringing deadly floods to the country’s east coast.
Last year, the Southeast Asian nation was battered by its worst floods in history. More than 50 people died and thousands were displaced in December 2021. – with a report from AFP