BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR
Published: 5 August 2014
Malaysians are getting bolder in displaying religious and racial hatred as the Barisan Nasional-led government has failed to act against extremists, says former Bar Council chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.
She said condoning such acts were now a licence for others to make disparaging remarks.
"People think they can do this now because others are have done it and have gotten away with it."
Ambiga (pic, left) was responding to calls to punish Kelvin Yip and Shahul Hamid Seeni Mohd who had made derogatory remarks that offended Muslims and Hindus.
Yip had posted a profane comment on his Facebook on the volume of the early morning azan, or the Muslim call to prayer.
On the other hand, Shahul was seen in a viral video telling Muslims to boycott curry powder made by "Hindu companies" such as Alagappa's and Baba's.
"If you go to the Alagappa's factory near Permatang Pauh, you will see a statue (goddess) at the entrance, and the tongue is out. Why is the tongue out? Because the goddess must taste all the curry powder before they sell it," Shahul said during a "halal and haram" forum.
Both men have apologised for their comments. But, there are calls to charge them with sedition or under the Penal Code.
Ambiga said the Sedition Act should not be used against those uttering insensitive remarks on race and religion, unless they are harmful.
"We should all condemn it in the strongest terms and that should be the end of it. To gun for them to face prosecution is not, in my view, a proportionate response."
She called on Malaysians to stop extremists from setting the tone for the country.
"I also believe that people who are in a position to mould public opinion like the Uztaz (Shahul Hamid) should be more responsible."
She said the fault lies squarely with the leadership as they allowed this to happen when they did not act against those who had encouraged racial and religious hatred.
Ambiga, who is a patron of Negara-Ku, said leaders must set the example and show that such comments were unacceptable.
"We are now witnessing unbridled racism that we have allowed, and now we want to punish them."
Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen (pic, left) said comments by Yip and Shahul were petty and “we should just relax and chill”.
"Instead of asking the state to punish, we must engage this people for making insensitive and ridiculous statements."
Civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan said Yip and Shahul Hamid were reflections of a generation who were not given the opportunity to experience different religions and cultures.
"Our education system had divided us as some went to national, vernacular and private schools."
Syahredzan, a member of the Malaysian Bar Council, said he agreed with a proposal by the National Unity Consultative Council that those who utter such insensitive remarks be referred to a tribunal, instead of dragging the police and the public prosecutor into this.
"We should be more tolerant and forgiving in order to make Malaysia a better place to live and work." – August 5, 2014.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/racism-will-flourish-if-leaders-do-nothing-say-civil-society-lawyers#sthash.lUpNozY1.dpuf