Aliran is shocked that a retiree was fined RM2,000 by a Sessions Court recently for having insulted Health Minister Adham Baba. And the former is to serve a month’s imprisonment if he fails to pay the fine.
The retiree made the ‘insulting’ remark in his Facebook account “with the intention to hurt others”.
It is surmised that the “others” included someone in the Ministry of Health who read the comment, which the judge noted was not malicious or overboard,
It is ridiculous that action was taken simply because a comment has ‘insulted’ others. We do not know what the comment was in this case. But comments that do not incite hate, threaten personal safety or cause hurt or damage should be allowed in a mature democracy.
If valid public comments about public officials and politicians are criminalised, it would set a dangerous precedent.
Politicians must be willing to listen to the differing views of the public, irrespective of whether they agree with the views. We cannot allow for a situation where politicians are shielded from valid public criticisms of their actions and the policies they make.
People have a democratic right to hold political leaders to account for their actions, especially when what they do and say insults the intelligence of ordinary Malaysians.
Would Malaysians, by virtue of this warped logic, have the right to sue any politician who has insulted their intelligence, like offering a lukewarm solution to a serious pandemic?
People have the right to criticise public officials and politicians, even if such criticism is scathing. Politicians who cannot take the heat should just vacate their public office and preferably stay away from politics altogether.
Criminalising comments and criticisms is a crass form of censorship that a democracy can do without.
5 July 2020