Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka Lim Kit Siang in Malacca on Sunday, 5.12.82 at 10.30 a.m.
Call on Deputy Minister and Minister of home Affairs, Datuk Musa Hitam, to appreciate the alarm expressed by the non-Muslim religious groups in the country, the Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and the Sikh religion, over the far-reaching implications of the Panel and Criminal Produce Code (Amendment) Bill 1982 on the constitutional right of freedom of religion, and to withdraw the Bill to allow for fuller inter-religious study before retabling it in Parliament
In the September UMNO General Assembly, the Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, said the Government would formulate a law to ensure that Islam, its teaching and values are not abused or wrongly preached. He said the law would serve to protect the sanctity of Islam as the official religion and would provide for legal action to be taken against those who carried out their activities prejudicial to Islam and Muslim unity in the country.
The UMNO General Assembly also unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Government to formulate an Act that would uphold the sanctity of Islam, defend true Islamic values and prevent them from being abused.
This UMNO attempt to deal with the ‘kafir mangafir’ issue is basically a intra-religious issue, as they stem from the interpretation Islamic doctrines in the Muslim community. As such, the ambit of new law to deal with the problem of ‘krafir mangafir’ should be confined the Muslim community.
It has therefore come as a shock to the other religious communities in the country, namely the Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs, that the government has introduced in Parliament the Panel and Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 1982 to provide for a new offence under the Penal Code punishable with a three-year jail sentence, not merely the wrongful preaching of Islam, but a provision which affects all other religious and religious groups.
The non-Muslim religious groups in the country, the Christians, the Buddhists, the Hindus and the Sikhs, are very alarmed at the proposed new Section 298A of the Penal Code which would have far-reaching implications on the constitutional right of freedom of religion in Malaysia. This is because the new Section 298A is so broadly worded that there is a wide range of circumstances in which the constitutional rights of professing, practicing and propagating one’s faith may be construed as illegal acts under the new Section 298A and punishable by law.
For instance, the proposed new Section 298A (1) provides:
“Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representations, or by any act, activity or conduct, or by organizing, promoting or arranging, or assisting in organizing, promoting or arranging, any activity, or otherwise in any other manner
(a) causes, or attempts to cause, or is likely to cause disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will; or
(b) prejudices, or attempts to prejudice, or likely to prejudice, the maintenance of harmony or unity,
on grounds of religion, between persons or groups of persons professing the same of different religious, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.’’
Thus, not only acts that ‘cause or attempts to cause’ or ‘prejudice or attempt to prejudice’ are illegal, but even those acts which are ‘likely to cause disharmony’ and ‘likely to prejudice the maintenance of harmony or unity’ are punishable by law. These provisions allow great scope for the misuse of powers of interpretation which could lead to a serious undermining of the right of religious freedom guaranteed in the Constitution.
Other provisions in the new Penal Code offence of Section 298A can also lead to the interference by the Government and State in the management and running of non-Muslim religious.
In view of the far-reaching implications of the proposed new Section 298A in the Penal Code, the various non-Muslim religious groups have expressed their alarm and dismay to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Datuk Musa Hitam.
So as to preserve the constitutional right of freedom of religion intact, and to maintain the good name of Malaysia world-wide as a country where there is no State coercion or interference with other religious, I call on Datuk Musa to withdraw the Panel and Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Bill 1+82 to allow for a fuller and more meaningful study of the implications of the new provision by the non-Muslim religious groups in the country.
There is no reason why the UMNO’s resolution to have an Act protect and uphold the sanctity of Islam, defend true Islamic values and Muslim unity in the country’ should be so broadly drafted as to even allow for interference in the practice, profession and propagation of non-Muslim religious in the country.
The Government should either confine the proposed new section 298A in the Penal Code to Muslims wrongly preaching Islam, or the same objective to resolve the ‘kafir mengakir’ issue should be attained by suitable amendments to existing laws governing the administration of Islam.
I hope that Datuk Musa Hitam would heed the appeals of the non-Muslim religious communities in the country with regard to the proposed new Section 298A in the Penal Code, for it would set a most unhealthy and undesirable precedent if the government rams through legislative proposals affecting non-Muslim religious without giving the non-Muslim religious meaningful opportunities to make their representations heard and known, not only to the Government, but also to the people at large.
The Bill should therefore be withdrawn to allow for further inter-religious study before retabling in Parliament.
Call on Minister of trade and Industry, Tengku Rithaudeen, to lift the ban on the import of steel bars to protect consumers from inefficient local steel manufacturers out to rake maximum profits from a captive market.
The sudden ban on the import of steel bars announced by the Ministry of Trade on Nov.25 has exposed consumers to the exploitation by rapacious, inefficient local steel manufacturers.
For the last six months, the internet onal prices of steel bars and raw materials have been dropping sharply, and this should be reflected in the local steel bar production. Unfortunately, while the international prices of steel price have been falling, the local steel manufacturers wanted to keep up the domestic price of steel to rake in unconscionable profits.
With this objective, the local steel manufacturers had used their influence to secure an import ban on steel bars, so that consumers would not benefit from the international drop of steel bar prices.
Industrialization in Malaysia must not be promoted at the expense of the unconscionable exploitation of the Malaysian consuming public. The DAP calls on the Minister of Trade and Industry, Tengku Rithaudeen, to immediately lift5 the ban on the import of steel bars to serve the interest of the larger Malaysian public rather than the profits of local steel manufacturers.