PETALING JAYA: Recent alleged threats to racial harmony have prompted a renewed call for tough laws against hate speech.
Akhbar Satar, a former president of Transparency International Malaysia, told FMT he would like to see laws so strict that even politicians and religious leaders would think twice before making racially-charged statements.
He said there was no need to enact a new law against hate speech because relevant sections of the Penal Code, the Sedition Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act could be strengthened.
The enforcement of those laws must be equally strict, he said, noting that the authorities’ action against racist statements seemed lately to be directed only against ordinary members of the public.
A lorry driver was charged on Wednesday at the Port Dickson magistrate’s court with posting racially-offensive remarks on social media. Several other nondescript social media users have been charged with similar offences this year.
“Most of the time, the government’s action is not consistent and is likely seen as insincere or politically motivated,” Akhbar said.
He said the apparent reluctance to go after political and religious figures gave the impression that Pakatan Harapan was not keeping its election promise to respect the rule of law and that it was selective in investigating offences and taking court action.
He spoke of the coalition’s election victory last year as heralding a new Malaysia ruled with justice and transparency.
He said the public thought the country would be governed by statesmen who would have the interests of future generations in mind.
“But what we are getting are politicians concerned about their own positions,” he said, alleging that leaders in Putrajaya were not speaking up for fear of offending other politicians and some sections of the public.
Akhbar said he believed race relations in the country were “still under control” but added that he feared for the worst if no action was taken against rogue politicians.
Klang MP Charles Santiago also called for the just application of the law, saying this would go far in making people feel assured that no community has an advantage over another.
He urged the government to take the lead in changing the direction of current political discourse by focusing on creating jobs, raising wage levels and improving the quality of life and education.
He said there was a link between racial unease and wages. “When people feel they are not able to put food on the table, tension rises.”