Penal Code Pun Boleh!

This article is in response to the recent protest outside a church in Taman Medan, Selangor

The Inspector General of Police’s brother (who was present at the protest), was quoted as saying that “the residents [of Taman Medan] just panicked after seeing the cross. They were uncomfortable and sensitive.”

“Some of them complained that the first thing they saw when they opened their windows was the cross.”

As a result of their “uncomfortableness”, a group of about 50 people decided to protest in front of the church, demanding that its leaders “remove the cross symbol on the outside of its shop lot premises”

It was then reported that the cross was taken down by church leaders a few hours after the protest

The ever impartial Inspector General of Police remarked that the protest was not seditious as “it did not touch on Christianity but only on the location of the church”

Is the whole issue truly on the location of the church as claimed by the IGP, or was it about the cross “affixed to the house of worship”?

It is widely reported that the protest was to get the church to remove the cross which was allegedly “challenging Islam” as well as “could sway the faith of the youth”

Clearly the issue is not about the location of the church, but about the presence of the cross. So, is the IGP trying to justify the unjustifiable? Or was he misinformed of the purpose of the entire protest?

The entire incident can easily be construed to fall under the ambit of Section 3(1)(a) of the Sedition Act 1948. The particular provision defines a seditious tendency as a tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia

Any reasonable person would be able to come to the conclusion that the entire protest AT LEAST had the tendency (a very low standard) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between the Muslims and the Christians

However, one need not rely on the Sedition Act as the Penal Code, specifically section 298A(1) makes it an offence if an action

(a) causes/attempts to cause/is likely to cause disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will, or

(b) prejudices/attempts to prejudice/is likely to prejudice the maintenance of harmony or unity

on grounds of religion

It is hard to see how our present facts does not satisfy the wordings of the above section. Similar to the Sedition Act, “likely to cause” and “likely to prejudice” imposes a very low standard to be satisfied

So dear IGP, you need not trouble yourself and even consider the controversial Sedition Act. You have the Penal Code at your disposal!

Whether or not the protesters should be charged in a court of law, is a task for the Attorney General. Whether it actually amounts to an offence, is for the Judiciary to decide. Considering the public interest in this case, it at least warrants an investigation on the part of the police force

*This article appeared in The Malaysian Insider, The Malay Mail Online and Free Malaysia Today

The Right Way To React To Provocation

In Malaysia, provocation is unavoidable. Especially with the existence of racial & religious extremists groups. It seems as if every word from their mouth is aimed to provoke a backlash from those offended. Thankfully we have a few good examples of individuals & organisations that have rightly reacted to provocation

In 2009, the Selangor government wanted to relocate a Hindu temple from Shah Alam to Section 23. The protest was held in front of the Selangor state government headquarters at the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Building, Shah Alam and the protesters desecrated a cow’s head . In case you didn’t know, cows are sacred to Hindus

The Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) reacted by organising a candlelight vigil at Dataran Merdeka

In 2010, churches and mosques were attacked in disapproval of the court decision that government regulations prohibiting non-muslim publications from using the word “Allah” was unconstitutional

Muslim NGOs patrolled the church areas in the Klang Valley in response to the attacks

“Parish Priest of Assumption church, PJ, Rev Father Philip Muthu urged the congregation to remain calm and pray for peace and harmony to prevail on Malaysians of all faiths.” Churches were burnt down yet Christians did not retaliate to the provocation

In January 2014, the Church of Assumption at Lebuh Farquhuar, Penang became the target of two molotov cocktails. “Christian leaders also urged their flock not to retaliate. The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) Chairman Reverend Dr Eu Hong Seng called on Christians to be wise and measured in their response to such acts”

“Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) general secretary Reverend Dr Hermen Shastri, in condemning the incident
today, said that the churches in the country will remain calm, but vigilant”

On the 5th of January 2014, Malaysians of all religions rallied in solidarity with Catholics attending Sunday Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Klang

The right way to react to provocation is by keeping calm. Everyone knows you dont fight fire with fire. Gandhi once said “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Kudos to those who have reacted correctly!