Media statement by Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan and International Secretary for Wanita DAP and member of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Rights and Gender Equality Kasthuri Patto on Friday 4 January 2019 in Penang
The rise of hate speech and hate crimes reflects the seriousness and urgency by the Pakatan Harapan Government to formulate an action plan for these acts to be regulated and criminalised.
The recent murder of a transgender in Bukit Tinggi Klang and the rise of hate speech targeting ethnicity, religion and even gender calls for regulation and criminalisation of hate speech and hate crimes in Malaysia.
The recent saga that unfolded at the Seafield Mariamman temple land dispute and its quick escalation into a racial and religious matter is evident how easily a matter can morph and transgress into a racial and religious in a violent manner.
How many more deaths must Malaysians witness before these deaths are regarded as hate crimes? How many more violent, aggressive, vile language must Malaysians be victims of before they are criminalised as hate speech?
In Malaysia we do not have a specific law to regulate or to criminalise hate speech especially against ethnicity and religious groups or even gender.
While Article 10 of the Federal Constitution declares that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, this norm is not absolute character. Like other countries, there are several restrictions on this freedom in order to protect minorities and people of different ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation and others who suffer from other forms of discrimination and aggression.
In Malaysia, words are sometimes deemed as weapons and more so with the archaic Sedition Act used against voices of dissent and those who have differing views of the Government of the day although the intended spirit of the act was to criminalise any intention to “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against” the government or engender “feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races. It has instead gained notoriety under the Barisan Nasional as a tool to silence political critics.
Hate speech and hate crimes constitute denigration of the reputation of a social group, stereotyped by some national, racial or religious characteristics, accompanied by incitement to hostility, violence and discrimination against the group. Racism is one of the main scourges affecting the international community and the same happens in Malaysia as well. It is well understandable that hate speech formulated by racist groups, diffused nowadays through many means of communication, including social media-like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and others constitutes an obstacle to overcoming structural racism.
Under international human rights covenants and in other Western democracies such as Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom, hate speech it is largely prohibited and subjected to criminal sanctions. In the United Kingdom, under section 145, the Criminal Justice Act imposes a duty upon courts to increase the sentence for any offence under hate crime. Section 146 of this Act also extends this aggravated treatment to the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. Sections 29-32 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 identifies several offences which, if motivated by hostility or where the offender demonstrates hostility, can be treated as racially or religiously. This would certainly be the way forward by the Pakatan Harapan Government to form a clear legislation to criminalise hate crime and speech – to use the UK model as a guide and to tailor make it according to the Malaysian climate.
In Italy, the police force undergo a training to assist their men in blue to improve their skills in recognising, understanding and investigating hate crimes through the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in their Training Against Hate Crimes for Law Enforcement programme (TAHCLE) which is something that I truly believe our PDRM is in dire need off – which is to investigate hate crimes as hate crimes, without fear, favour or prejudice.
The Government should heed the call of Minister of Communication and Multimedia Gobind Singh Deo last September to regulate and criminalise hate speech and hopefully now, hate crimes as well and also what Minister in the Prime Ministers Department for Religious Affairs Mujahid Yusof Rawa’s submission of 3 private members bill to the Dewan Rakyat in 2017 which were the Racial and Religious Hate Crime Bill, the National Harmony Commission Bill and the Equality Bill.
At the end of the day, the spirit and character of the law is to promote peace, respect, and with the backbone of co-existence keeping the doctrines of the Rukun Negara at heart. Therefore, a legal regime on anti-hate speech is needed and must be complemented with education and an awareness on equal treatment, mutual respect, and compassion paired with striking a balance between freedom of speech and the repression of hate speech. In this Malaysia Baharu, it is up to every Malaysian to demolish and destroy negative myths concocted and built up by hate speech and in the gravest of cases, the application of criminal sanctions.
Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan
International Secretary for Wanita DAP
Member of the the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Rights and Gender Equality
Democratic Action Party