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Thursday, 5 June 2014

No need for new laws to prosecute hate crimes, say critics at public forum

At the June 5, 2014 RTD
BY ELIZABETH ZACHARIAH Published: 6 June 2014 |(Malaysianinsider)
The National Unity Consultative Council's (NUCC) proposed National Unity Bills came under scrutiny in a forum last night, where many questioned the need for more laws to replace the draconian Sedition Act that is due to be repealed.
In the "Discussion on National Unity Bills" organised by the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) and the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM), many expressed concern over the proposed three new laws, one of which would replace the Sedition Act.
The first draft of the bills – the Racial and Religious Hate Crimes Bill, the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill and the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission Bill – was presented to the cabinet last week.
Proham chairman Datuk Kuthubul Zaman, who was one of the speakers, said he disagreed with the proposed laws, adding that the Penal Code was more than sufficient to replace the Sedition Act.      "We do not need new laws to substitute the Sedition Act. The Penal Code covers criminal intimidation among others and is more than enough to cover hate crimes," he said at the discussion at the GMM office in Kuala Lumpur.
Earlier, NUCC Working Committee on Law & Policy deputy chairman Lim Chee Wee said that the committee had felt that the Penal Code was not sufficient to deter and punish hate crimes should the Sedition Act be repealed. He said the new bills would be a "better mechanism" for conflict management, adding that it would criminalise incitement of racial and religious hatred. "In the UK, hate speech is also criminalised," he added. However, Kuthubul said in the UK, there was no Penal Code, hence there was a need for its Race Relations Act.
Jerald Joseph, director of Pusat Komas and another speaker at the discussion, said the bills were essentially to put a stop to the "free space" given to hate speeches by all sides of the divide. "This is a start. We have an A-G (attorney-general) who is selective in cases he wants to prosecute, we have a police force who does not know if it should take action... there is enough grounds for the bills," he added.
Kuthubul shot back: "If you say the A-G uses the Sedition Act to prosecute the opposition, then he can also use these new laws to do the same. "If you say the police don't know what to do with the old laws and so we need more laws to get them to act, that is also not true." Stressing that these were wrong intentions to come up with the new laws, he said the people should instead put pressure on the A-G to be fair in prosecuting.
Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) head Wan Saiful Wan Jan also expressed concern about the unity bills, saying that repealing one law does not justify the introduction of three new laws. "It is worrying that we need these laws to replace one. It is not justifiable and I do not agree with it," he said.
Also raising questions about the proposed national unity bills was Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen, who said that the country was more in need of political leadership instead of laws. "I am concerned that we keep looking at laws as a way to resolve things. "But what is more needed is political leadership from our prime minister rather than more laws," he added.
A member of the public Siti Kassim said instead of proposing new laws to deter hate crimes, the NUCC should look into the root causes of such problems, such as education. "Students in schools are being taught to be racist at a young age and teachers are being brainwashed right from training colleges. "It all starts with education and I feel the NUCC should look into tackling this rather than proposing new laws," she said, adding that the country already had enough laws to prosecute hate crimes.
GMM chief executive officer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Proham secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, who are both also NUCC members, were the moderators of the discussion, which was attended by more than 40 members of NGOs and the public. – June 6, 2014 -

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