The statement by de facto Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa that the time has come for the government to introduce specific legislation to curb hate speech is welcomed as a part of promoting racial unity.
However, Mujahid’s proposal that such legislation be incorporated by way of specific provisions in the Sedition Act is regrettable as the said Act has been identified by the Pakatan Harapan government as one of the draconian laws which ought to be repealed in this country.
There have been many arguments for the repeal of the said Act and it is not my intention to repeat the same here.
That there is an urgent need to introduce a specific law to deal with racial harmony, including hate speech is without doubt given recent events which have seen various irresponsible parties incite racial hatred with impunity, particularly on the internet.
I say with impunity because current legal or penal consequences for those who commit such acts are inadequate leading them to believe that little or no action will be taken against them.
The government had initially rightly proposed the Racial and Religious Hate Crimes Bill and the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill but unfortunately abandoned its plan to table the same in favour of the possible setting up of a National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission instead.
A Commission will not have the bite of specific legislation as the police must be empowered to arrest and investigate hate speech speedily which is only possible if there is in place such specific legislation.
If one were to, for instance, post on the internet articles which incite racial unrest, he/she must know that he/she can be arrested and investigated forthwith and possibly charged.
In the circumstances, it is hoped that the government reconsiders its original intention to table the said Bills or alternatively, introduce a single Bill for the purpose of tackling the menace of racism and it’s consequences, such as hate speech.
I see no reason for such a move to be opposed by any party as its noble aim is to promote racial harmony which would be in the interest of all and in view of the growing number of cases involving hate speech of late, I urge the government to do so forthwith.
Dated this 26th of August, 2019.
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
CHAIRMAN NATIONAL LEGAL BUREAU
DEMOCRATIC ACTION PARTY