Home Civil Society Voices Stop use of repressive laws in addressing temple dispute

Stop use of repressive laws in addressing temple dispute

Aftermath of the attack on the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Devasrhanam temple. — Photograph: Asyraf Rasid/The Sun Daily

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Hakam notes with deep concern the cabinet’s decision yesterday to withdraw the moratorium on the Prevention of Crime Act, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 in order for the police to probe recent events surrounding the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple at USJ 25, Subang Jaya.

Hakam fully supports the government’s intention to restore peace and public order and for those who incite racial hatred and rioting to be punished under the law.

The current government, however, must not emulate the previous administration in using repressive laws to deal with this situation. It was for this reason that Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto promised to abolish these laws. The continued use of these obnoxious laws violates the integrity and credibility of building a new Malaysia distinct from the old.

Hakam calls on the government to immediately repudiate its decision to use these repressive laws against suspects. There are sufficient provisions in our laws to deal with this situation.

In particular, the Prevention of Crime Act and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act give wide powers to the authorities to detain an individual for prolonged periods without trial and provides no judicial oversight.

Hakam believes that the existing provisions for remand of up to 14 days under the Criminal Procedure Code and the channelling of more resources to the relevant agencies for speedier investigations are adequate measures to tackle the problem at hand.

Further, the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act are phrased too arbitrarily & have been opened to abuse many times under the previous regime.

Hakam believes there are existing provisions in the Penal Code to prosecute offenders in these cases, such as Section 298 (uttering words, etc, with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person), Section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace) and Section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief).

Finally, the usage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act is wholly unnecessary considering that the temple fracas has no relation to terrorism.

Hakam therefore urges the government to stand firm with its manifesto promises, respect human rights and uphold the rule of law. Public order and human rights can exist hand-in-hand – and this government must prove that this is the way for Malaysia to move forward.

Lim Wei Jiet is secretary-general of Hakam.

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