From Baru Bian
I am disappointed with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s reported remarks today on the withdrawal of the appeal in the “Allah” case, if the reports are true.
It must be noted that the source of all the problems which culminated in the filing of the case is the 1986 administrative directive by the home ministry banning the use of certain words by non-Muslims.
The present case basically was a challenge to the legality of that directive. I pointed out in my statement yesterday that in her judgment, Justice Nor Bee Ariffin had said that the home ministry had exceeded its powers with the order, and that such a prohibition was against the Federal Constitution.
The judge held that the directive banning the use of the words was invalid. There was no distinction made between Sarawak and the other states in Peninsular Malaysia in the judgment.
By withdrawing the appeal, the attorney-general and the government are effectively accepting the decision of the judge in its entirety, thereby acknowledging that the 1986 directive is invalid.
The home minister understands this, as evidenced by today’s video clip of his press conference on the matter. He was very clear on this, stating that the home ministry could no longer enforce that directive pursuant to the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984.
I applaud him for his understanding and explanation of the implications of the judgment.
The prime minister has no basis for saying that the decision only applies to Sarawak.
His statement contradicts the statement made by the home minister. In this instance, the home minister’s view is the legally correct position.
The prime minister must not confuse the people by making inaccurate assumptions or conclusions on the legal effect of the withdrawal of the appeal. The judgment of the High Court applies throughout the whole of Malaysia.
This is why I had said earlier that the law should apply to all the states in Malaysia. If the prime minister goes on a case by case basis, then he is implying that each state law can prohibit non-Muslims from using certain words which means restricting religious freedom.
When the judge wrote that “Religious freedom is absolutely protected even in times of threat to public order…”, she did not limit that statement to only Sarawak.
The Federal Constitution does not discriminate among the people of different races or states. As head of the unity government, the prime minister must not shy away from speaking the facts, especially where the rights of the minority are at risk of being eroded and curtailed.
Baru Bian is the Ba’ Kelalan assemblyman.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.