APRIL 20 — This article is in response to the recent protest outside a church in Taman Medan, Selangor.
The brother of the Inspector-General of Police (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 “posed a challenge to the religion and 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 on 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 strong 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 strong 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 do 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.
* Josh Wu is a first-year law student who blogs at www.rebuttedopinions.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.