In protest against cross comes test of Sedition Act amendments, DAP man says

File photo of a mass being held at a church in Kuala Lumpur. Yesterday, it was reported that around 50 residents of Taman Medan staged a protest against a new church in the area for putting up a crucifix on its facade. — Picture by Choo Choy May
File photo of a mass being held at a church in Kuala Lumpur. Yesterday, it was reported that around 50 residents of Taman Medan staged a protest against a new church in the area for putting up a crucifix on its facade. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — Putrajaya must live up to its pledge to protect religious groups from “ill will or hostility” as claimed in its controversial amendments to the Sedition Act 1948, after a new church in Taman Medan bowed to pressure from Muslim protesters to remove a cross from its facade, a DAP lawmaker said.

Petaling Jaya-Utara MP Tony Pua said both the federal government and the police had failed to act on yesterday’s protest, accusing the authorities of maintaining “a remarkable silence” on the issue despite harping on the need for safeguards to religious sensitivities when pushing through the amendments two weeks ago.

“The group, which gathered at about 10am on Sunday while church service was going on, contended that the sight of the cross in a majority Muslim area challenged Islam and could influence younger minds,” he said in a statement.

“Had the situation been reversed, where a group of non-Muslims protested against the existence or construction of a surau or mosque, there is no doubt that the relevant authorities would have reacted immediately to clamp down the situation,” he added.

Pua said part of the recent amendments, which were voted for unanimously by Barisan Nasional backbenchers, are supposed to deal specifically with such cases by penalising any person who “promoted feelings of ill-will or hostility between persons or groups on the grounds of religion”.

While DAP maintains its opposition to the colonial era Act, Pua said the ball is now in the court of those who supported the amendments to explain whether or not they agree with what the protesters had done.

“‎While we remain adamant against the Sedition Act due to the ease of abuse against civil society critics, we call upon the proponents of the Act to state their position as to whether action should be taken against the protesters above.

“This is because the BN MPs defended the Act and the relevant amendments purely to deal with these types of exact issues,” said Pua, who is als DAP national publicity secretary.

Pua said the Taman Medan issue is far from over, since the church had voluntarily agreed to take down the cross “under threat and intimidation”.

“The bigger issue is the fact that if the authorities do not act to protect the minorities in this country, the majority will just become big bullies and take similar actions against others who are just practising what is protected by our Federal Constitution,” he said.

Yesterday, it was reported that around 50 residents of Taman Medan staged a protest against a new church in the area for putting up a cross on its facade.

The group claimed that putting up a cross in a Malay-majority area is a challenge to Islam and could influence young Muslims.

Police arrived about half-an-hour after the protest began the act as intermediaries between the protesters and church leaders.

It is understood that the church had purportedly taken down the cross several hours later.

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