Don’t waste your time probing Rome Statute forum, police told

Panel speakers at the forum ‘Malaysia dan Statut Rome’ at Universiti Malaya on April 27.

PETALING JAYA: The police have come under fire from activists and politicians over a sedition probe launched over a forum on the Rome Statute which also featured Attorney-General Tommy Thomas.

The investigation followed a police report lodged by an Umno leader who accused one of the forum speakers of insulting the rulers during a panel discussion.

“It is wasting the police’s time to investigate. They have other better things to do, catching real criminals,” said former diplomat Noor Farida Ariffin, who was among the speakers at the forum “Malaysia dan Statut Rome” organised by civil society organisations including Muslim groups Ikram and Sisters in Islam, veterans group Patriot, and G25.

The forum had also invited critics of the Rome Statute – the international treaty from which Putrajaya withdrew from last month – but they did not turn up.

Apart from Farida and Thomas, others who spoke at the forum were student activist Asheeq Ali Sethi Alivi, lawyers Gurdial Singh Nijar and Lim Wei Jeit, constitutional law professor Shad Saleem Faruqi and veteran politician Syed Husin Ali.

Yesterday, an NGO leader lodged a police report against Syed Husin over remarks he said could incite the public against the Malay rulers.

The sociologist had said among others that the royal backlash against the Rome Statute stemmed from fears for their own position in the face of increasing scepticism about the use of royal power.

Syed Husin said the Malay rulers had felt threatened by increasing criticism of their role in politics, business and the economy.

He also said there had been increasing concern about the rulers offending the principles of the Federal Constitution by interfering in politics, business and the economy.

Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh questioned the latest police investigation, saying the forum was an attempt at debating the Rome Statute controversy in a matured and rational manner.

“Will Fuzi be hauling up the AG for questioning with a view to charging him under the Sedition Act?” asked Ramkarpal, who heads DAP’s legal bureau.

“The government should be encouraging such debates and free speech instead of instilling fear by threatening the use of the Sedition Act on those who support or criticise the Rome Statute.”

Last month, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that the government was withdrawing from the treaty, after the move was criticised by the Johor palace which said it would undermine Malaysia’s royal institution.

Farida asked if the police were taking orders from the opposition, adding that recent statements touching on race and religion by Umno and PAS had yet to be investigated.

“When we tried to promote intellectual debate, they investigate. They are welcome to do so because there is no case to answer.”

Meanwhile, Asheeq, a key person behind the Saturday forum, said there were attempts to demonise the organisers by “cherry-picking” certain points by speakers.

“Everything went fine for five hours, except a small number of the crowd who made noise,” he told FMT when contacted.