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Anti-cross protest: Justifying the unjustifiable

April 21, 2015

There's no need to use the Sedition Act; the protest can be probed under the Penal Code.

COMMENT

IGP Khalid, 2 taman medan

By Joshua Wu

Explaining the recent protest outside a church in Taman Medan, Selangor, the Inspector General of Police’s brother, who was among the protesters, was quoted as saying that the residents of the area “just panicked” after seeing the cross.

“They were uncomfortable and sensitive,” he said. “Some of them complained that the first thing they saw when they opened their windows was the cross.”

Apparent, because they were sensitive, uncomfortable and in a state of panic, about 50 of them decided to protest in front of the church, demanding that the people responsible remove the cross, which was outside of the shop premises that served as the church.

It was reported that the cross was taken down 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 about the location of the church, or was it about the cross “affixed to the house of worship”?

According to the protesters, as was widely reported, the cross was a “challenge to Islam” and could “sway the faith” of young Muslims.

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 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 protest at least had the tendency to promote hostility between the Muslims and Christians.

However, one need not rely on the Sedition Act since 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 the facts of the case do not satisfy the wording of the above section. As in the Sedition Act, “likely to cause” and “likely to prejudice” impose 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 something for the Attorney General to decide. Whether the protest 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.

Joshua Wu is an FMT reader

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