No offence committed in ‘coat of arms’ issue, says rights group

(Twitter pic)

PETALING JAYA: Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today criticised the probe into a book publisher over the artwork used for a book’s cover which was said to have defaced the country’s coat of arms.

In a statement, it said the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act 1963 under which the investigation is held only prohibits the use of the official coat of arms without written permission from the minister.

“From the outset, we must correct the erroneous claim that an offence was committed,” said LFL coordinator Zaid Malek.

“It does not prohibit any artistic rendition inspired by the nation’s coat of arms such as the one used on the cover of the book, which no sane person would mistake for the country’s actual coat of arms.”

Yesterday, police confirmed that they were investigating the case under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act as well as the Communications and Multimedia Act.

They also seized 313 copies of the book, “Rebirth: Reformasi, Resistance, And Hope In New Malaysia”.

The cover of the book featured an image similar to the national coat of arms, illustrated with a naked child flanked by two tigers with humanoid faces stepping on a crocodile.

This led to calls by Umno Youth for action to be taken and the book banned.

The Prime Minister’s Office had also warned of action under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act.

The publisher, Gerakbudaya, later apologised for the design but said it had no intention of insulting or ridiculing the national symbol.

Zaid said the other laws under which the publisher was being investigated were “notoriously oppressive and anti-democratic” and should be repealed in the upcoming Parliament session.

Not only was the artwork in question old, he said, it was even part of an exhibition in Kuala Lumpur as early as 2014 when Barisan Nasional was in federal power.

“This begs the question of why such artwork is only now considered offensive and unacceptable.”

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