KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 13 — The rise in racial and religious tension in Malaysia is a result of renewed freedom of expression brought about by the new change in government, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa said today.

Mujahid, who was responding to a suggestion by BBC HARDtalk host Zeinab Badawi that Malaysians were ‘off the leash’ due to better freedom of expression under the new government, said everything remained under control due to existing laws.

“In Malaysia, the freedom which Malaysians enjoyed following the new government’s takeover has made social media a ‘free-for-all’ platform where anyone could say anything they want.

“Of course they are guided by certain laws, not to prohibit their freedom but to guide any posting that may lead to racial or religious tension,” he told British national broadcaster BBC.

He pointed out that when Pakatan Harapan took over the ruling administration, it had promised to secure more freedom of speech but at the same time committed to educating the public on their responsibility with the added freedom.

However, he said freedom of expression particularly in social media provided to Malaysians were also used extensively by the Opposition to play up race and religion issues at present time.

“This is exactly what has happened because the Opposition has no other agenda to create dissatisfaction to the government, so they only have race and religion, and the platform in Facebook is really the best platform for them to disseminate all these (race and religion) issues,” he said.

In August this year, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had expressed concern over rising sentiments regarding race, religion and royalty (3R) in the country.

He said police data showed the number of incidents involving these issues had doubled since January when compared to last year.

In the same month, Police Inspector-General Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador accused Opposition parties for attempting to destabilise the federal government amid a rise in religious and racial tension in Malaysia.

The top cop also warned that anyone found to be playing on racial sentiments and inciting religious sensitivities will be arrested without warning.