THE Sedition Act 1948 is a law prohibiting discourse deemed as seditious. And under Section 3(1) of the Act, one of the actions defined as seditious is promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between the races.
Recent notable cases of enforcement of the Sedition Act are the charging of a student in Penang for liking an “I love Israel” page on Facebook; and Dr Azmi Sharom for comments made about the Perak constitutional crisis in an online portal article.
Maybe these individuals were rightfully charged. Maybe not. Whilst the necessity of the Sedition Act is still being debated, the fact is it still exists. And while the Act is still in enforcement, the question of why Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali (pic)hasn’t been charged remains.
Ibrahim is alleged to have called for Malay language Bibles to be burned. Shouldn’t this fall under the category of sedition? Just how seditious must a remark be to allow for the Sedition Act to be used?
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri in a parliamentary written reply dated Oct 7, said the police had concluded that Ibrahim’s call for Malay Bibles to be burnt was directed at specific individuals, and not a threat to the larger society.
The police also decided not to act against Ibrahim because he was merely “defending Islam”, her written reply said.
Who are these specific individuals?
I am of the view that most Malaysians were angered and offended by Ibrahim’s remarks, be they Malay, Chinese, Indian, or Eurasians, and I believe that the statement in question surely qualifies as promoting hostility between the races.
Imagine an Indian leader making a remark about burning Buddhist holy texts; or a Chinese leader calling for the Qurans to be burnt; or a Kadazan shouting for every religious book to be torched.
A detailed and transparent explanation needs to be delivered to the public.
For example, in a family of three children; it does not set a good example if one child is favoured over the other two. In order to preserve harmony in the family, all three must be treated fairly.
A fair judgment on this matter will also set an example and force others to toe the line. Malaysians are fed up and annoyed by unpleasant remarks and a proper handling of Ibrahim Ali’s case will go a long way in showing public figures that they should think before they speak.
Fostering harmony between the races is no easy task. Thus, a harmonious nation is everyone’s responsibility, more so if one is a public figure or politician.
Luckily for Malaysia, we are blessed with many leaders who do lead by example. MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, for one, has stressed that MCA are committed to its call for moderation.
And of course there is Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who when opening Gerakan’s 43rd National Delegates Conference said, “Political leaders must set an example for the rakyat and reject any form of extremism.”
A proper handling of Ibrahim Ali’s case will, thus, go a long way in instilling trust and harmony among Malaysians of different races and cultures.