Wednesday, September 21, 2016

'Stupid and crass people exist in every society but...'

Alyaa Azhar     Published     Updated
Stupid and crass people exist in every society, an academician has pointed out, but this does not mean that they should be subjected to laws for the things they say.

“In every society there are people who are like the bottom part of your body (ass). They spring up like mushrooms after the rain and we can't destroy them,” law lecturer Azmi Sharom said.

“Their minds and mouths are filthy, but as long as they don't say that they want to destroy something, or hurt or kill someone, that’s their business. They are (just) stupid.”

Speaking at a forum on the Sedition Act organised by the Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH) last night, Azmi said then when asked by GHAH coordinator Amir Abd Hadi whether other laws should be in place to curb comments that offend, should the Sedition Act be repealed.
The Universiti Malaya lecturer (photo), who was himself charged with sedition and later acquitted, was frank in his response when he said that he always takes offence whenever he switches on the television and sees a Barisan Nasional leader speaking.

“Whenever that Gerakan Youth leader (Tan Keng Liang) opens his mouth, I take offence. But does that mean I can shut him up? Of course not.

“As an adult, can't I endure a little annoyance? Are Malaysians so weak that we fly into a rage every time we get offended?” Azmi asked the gathering.

The solution for this, the academician said, is simple: don't listen to something that you do not agree with.

“Whenever a Taylor Swift song comes on the radio, I switch it off. End of story.”

But this does not mean that there should not be limitations at all.

One suggestion proposed by the law lecturer was for the country’s laws to be like that in the United Kingdom, where an offending remark is not an offence unless it incites violence.

“Once they cross the line, that’s when we can use the law,” he said.

However, Azmi questioned the point of having even the most perfect piece of legislation if it was not used fairly.

“Just take a look at the country’s history – the laws have not been used fairly.

“Therefore, (Gerakan Merah leader) Ali Tinju (Mohd Ali Baharom) can say whatever he wants to say,” Azmi said.

‘Pointless, if a law is not fairly enforced’

And this, despite the army veteran having crossed the line when he allegedly issued a death threat against Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, Azmi pointed out.

“Nothing happened to him (Ali). (So) even if we have a fantastic law, if it is not fairly enforced, it’s pointless. It will still be an unjust law,” he said.
Ever the joker, fellow panellist Hishamudin Rais (photo), expressed his gratitude to how “stupidity is not a contagious disease”.

Hishamudin said: “With regard to the Sedition Act, do we, as a society, need to be controlled?

“They say the Sedition Act is needed because without it we would be violent. (But) many countries don't have such a thing as Sedition Act!”

Speaking as a blogger, Hishamudin said one should instead exercise responsibility as adults.

“You may say it’s self-censorship (but) you must have responsibility as adults. (And) responsibility is not from the Act but because we are humans who can think.

“We don’t need all these laws. Yes it’s true there are stupid people.

“But, as I’ve said, stupidity is not a disease. If that person is stupid and it doesn't spread, it’s okay,” he said, to laughter from the audience during the forum held at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH).

Documentary on Secition Act launched

Last night’s event also saw the launch of a documentary on the Sedition Act, titled ‘Hasut’.

Opposition political leaders Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, lawmakers Nurul Izzah Anwar, Tian Chua, Teresa Kok as well as activists, academicians and others such as Hishamudin, Azmi, Adam Adli Abd Halim, Wan Ji Wan Hussin and Michelle Yesudas speak about being subjected to the Sedition Act in the 30-minute documentary, produced by Kelab Filem Bangsar.

The maker of the documentary, Wong Siew Ki, said the it took her more than a year to complete ‘Hasut’, but it was not due to it being difficult to be done.

“I had problems obtaining funding. So I had to work first and during my free time, I did the documentary,” she said.

Later, asked about GHAH’s plans to ensure that the Sedition Act gets repealed, Amir, who is also Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) coordinator, said the group was focussing on awareness campaigns.

“With the Internal Security Act (ISA), many saw how political leaders were placed at the Kamunting detention centre, so the level of sympathy was high.

“With the Sedition Act, victims are detained for a few days. So what we’re doing now is to give awareness on the importance of freedom of speech,” Amir said.
GHAH is utilising various approaches, including music,and Amir expressed hope that more young people would join in the efforts to spread awareness on the issue.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in 2012, had pledged that the Sedition Act will be repealed and replaced with a new law, to be known as the National Harmony Act.

However, two years later, the prime minister announced that the Sedition Act would not only be retained but that it would be further fortified.

Scores of individuals, including politicians, academicians, activists and even media personnel, have been subjected to action under the Sedition Act.

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