KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — Malaysia’s police today stood by its move to ban controversial India-born preacher Dr Zakir Naik from delivering talks publicly in the country even as some lawyers assert that there is no legal basis to do so.
Its head of corporate communications Datuk Asmawati Ahmad reiterated that the police are responsible for maintaining peace and public order and that its action to prohibit Dr Zakir is in line with Section 3(3) of the Police Act 1967.
“Our action to issue the ban was appropriate and was in line with Section 3(3) of the Police Act 1967,” Asmawati told Malay Mail when contacted, citing the provision.
The section reads: “The police shall subject to this Act be employed in and throughout Malaysia (including the territorial waters thereof) for the maintenance of law and order, the preservation of the peace and security of Malaysia, the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension and prosecution of offenders and the collection of security intelligence.”
Two lawyers told news portal Malaysiakini that the police ban on Dr Zakir from speaking publicly in the country, whether physically or through social media, was questionable as there is no specific law that provides for the prohibition.
Lawyer Haniff Khatri claimed the same provision cited by Bukit Aman does not explicitly empower the police to publicly gag Dr Zakir but was just to identify the law enforcer’s role; while New Sin Yew reportedly said the authorities can set conditions for the preacher in relation to his status as a Malaysian permanent resident.
Dr Zakir is currently being investigated under Section 504 of the Penal Code for intentional insult to provoke a breach of the peace over his remarks made during a public talk in Kota Baru, Kelantan on August 10.
The 53-year-old reportedly questioned the loyalty of Indian Malaysians and called Chinese Malaysians “old guests” who should return to their ancestral country first, amid calls for his deportation to his home country where he is wanted on money laundering and terror-related charges.
Dr Zakir has since apologised for his remarks after Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he overstepped his boundaries as a permanent resident, adding that the government can revoke the status, which was awarded the preacher in 2015 by the previous Barisan Nasional administration.