In his speech at the National Ummah Unity Convention, held on the 25th of August 2019 at KL International Hotel, Mr Aminuddin Yahya, Chairman of the Gerakan Pembela Ummah (UMMAH), inter alia listed 7 threats being faced from UMMAH’s perspective. The full transcript of the speech, in the national language, can be found on UMMAH’s Facebook page.
For summary purposes, the 7 threats translated into English are as follows:
Threat 1: Liberalism Movement
Threat 2: Christianization
Threat 3: Human Rights Movement
Threat 4: Movement To Amend Laws
Threat 5: A Critical Economy
Threat 6: Extremist Movement
Threat 7: An Uncertain Future
This article intends to respond to a certain point made in relation to Threat 4 (i.e. Movement To Amend Laws). According to Mr Aminuddin, amendments to laws and policies such as the Sedition Act, the National Culture Policy, and the abolition of the death penalty, if successful, would continue to the marginalize the position of the Royalty, the Malays, and Islam.
With regard to the Sedition Act, Mr Aminuddin contends that an amendment to it will allow people to criticise the position of the Royalty and the Malays without any action being able to be taken against them. Sadly Mr Aminuddin is either misinformed or is deliberately spreading falsehood. The Penal Code, for example, contains various provisions which would be of assistance and have been relied on in the past to deal with such offenders.
Penal Code provisions of relevance to the subject matter at hand include the following:
- Section 298
“Whoever, with deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture in the sight of that person, or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”
- Section 298A
“(1) Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or by any act, activity or conduct, or by organising, promoting or arranging, or assisting in organising, promoting or arranging, any activity, or otherwise in any other manner:
(a) causes, or attempts to cause, or is likely to cause disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will; or
(b) prejudices, or attempts to prejudice, or is likely to prejudice, the maintenance of harmony or unity,
on grounds of religion, between persons or groups of persons professing the same or different religions, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than two years and not more than five years.”
- Section 504
“Whoever intentionally insults, and thereby gives provocation to any person, intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause him to break the public peace, or to commit any other offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
- Section 505
“Whoever makes, publishes or circulated any statement, rumour or report –
(a) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman in the Malaysian Armed Forces or any person to whom section 140B refers to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such; or
(b) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility;
(c) with intent to incite or which is likely to incite any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community of persons,
shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
On 8th March 2019, four individuals were charged under a combination of the abovementioned sections, for having insulted Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 has also come into play for such cases in the past.
Therefore, it is clear that the Sedition Act, though usually relied on by the police force in their investigations for such cases, is in actual fact unnecessary for the purposes of ensuring action can be taken against such offenders. This disproves Mr Aminudin’s abovementioned claims.
In YB Teresa Kok’s legal suit concerning her detention under Section 73(1) of the Internal Security Act, there were allegations she “had been involved in a protest against Jawi signages and in a petition to reduce the volume of the azan at the Masjid Bandar Kinrara.”
The Court of Appeal noted that, “… there was always open to the police under the law other avenues to deal with the appellant even if there were some merits in the complaints raised implicating [Teresa Kok]. There ought to have been proper investigation commenced relating to the complaints when they were first received in February 2008 and even if there was any sustainable basis for such allegation, then [Teresa Kok] ought to have been prosecuted under possibly s 298 or even perhaps s 298A(1) of the Penal Code.”
Further, in Liau Choy Wan v Public Prosecutor  10 MLJ 374, the accused, a bank officer, was charged under Section 504 of the Penal Code for having hurled racial slurs at a customer. His Lordship Collin Sequerah J, in affirming the Magistrate’s decision to sentence the accused to six months imprisonment, stated the following:
“ It can be discerned from the commentary above that the offence here is not a minor one. Such abusive comments could lead to severe repercussions that is likely to cause a breach of peace. Should a breach of peace occur, it is no exaggeration to say that this may involve hurt or even loss of lives to certain persons. The public interest here then is the prevention of insults that gives rise to provocation likely to cause a breach of peace.
 This is all the more so in the context of the multi-racial society in which we exist. The possibility of racial unrest occurring cannot be underestimated or ignored. Therefore such insults must not go unchecked. This is one situation where a policy of deterrence is absolutely necessary. Allowing a situation of unrest or breach of peace to fester and to occur first before taking appropriate action would be tantamount to the proverbial ‘closing of the stable doors after the horses have bolted’.
 The injunction against the use of racial slurs applies to all sections of our multi-racial society irrespective of the ethnicity or station in life of the person in question. In this respect the equality before the law provision guaranteed in art 8 of the Federal Constitution resonates among all sections of our society.”
What can be gleaned from the above is that the existing laws, particularly those in the Penal Code, are more than sufficient to deal with UMMAH’s concerns. Talks of amendments to the Sedition Act enabling people to get away with criticising the position of the Royalty and the Malays are nothing but unsubstantiated fear mongering.
 See e.g. https://www.nst.com.my/news/crime-courts/2019/03/471941/2-charged-insulting-agong-facebook; https://www.nst.com.my/news/crime-courts/2019/02/459187/former-sales-manager-charged-insulting-agong-social-media-nsttv; and https://www.nst.com.my/news/crime-courts/2019/04/477327/farmer-pleads-guilty-insulting-yang-di-pertuan-agong-fb
 YB Teresa Kok Suh Sim v Menteri Dalam Negeri, Malaysia, YB Dato’ Seri Syed Hamid bin Syed Jaafar Albar & Ors  6 MLJ 352 (CA)