Press Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Monday, 6.12.1982:
Cable to Datuk Musa Hitam to withdraw the Penal and Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 1982 until next Parliament meeting to allow adequate time for non-Muslim religious groups like the Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs, to study and make representations.
I have today sent a cable to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Datuk Musa Hitam, urging him to withdraw the Penal and Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 1982 until next Parliament meeting in March next year to allow the non-Muslim religious groups in the country, namely the Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs adequate time to study and make representations on the bill which has far-reaching consequences on the constitutional right of freedom of religion in Malaysia.
My cable to Datuk Musa Hitam reads:
“Non-Muslim religious groups and organisations, whether Christians, Buddhists, Hindus or Sikhs, greatly alarmed by Penal and Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 1982 because of the far-reaching consequences on the freedom of religion guaranteed by Malaysian Constitution.
“As presently proposed, the Penal and Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 1982 is a serious encroachment of the freedom of religion as it would allow for untrammelled state interference in the practice, profession and propagation of non-Muslim religions in the country.
“Government should accept the principle that before any law is introduced and enacted affecting the practice, profession and propagation of non-Muslim religions, non-Muslim religious groups and organisations must be fully consulted and their agreement sought.
“Nothing would be lost, and everything to gain, by withdrawing the present bill until next parliamentary meeting in March 1983, to allow for full study and representation to be made by non-Muslim religions. This will also maintain good name of Malaysia world wide as a country where there is no state coercion or interference with other religions.
Lim Kit Siang
The UMNO leaders have made known their intention to introduce legislation to deal with the ‘kafir mengafir’ problem for quite some time. The Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, himself said at the UMNO General Assembly in September 1982 that the Government would formulate a law to ensure that Islam, its teachings 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 ‘kafir mengafir’ issue is purely an intra-religious issue of the Islamic religion in Malaysia, and its solution should be confined to the Islamic adherents in the country.
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’s proposal to deal with the ‘kafir mengafir’ problem will also affect the other religious communities as well.
In creating a new offence under the Penal and Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 1982, punishable with a three-year jail sentence and in more serious circumstance with a five-year jail sentence, the government has encompassed not only the ‘kafir mengafir’ problem in the Muslim community, but also other religious groups with matters that have no bearing whatsoever with the ‘kafir menagafir’ issue or with any matter connected with Islam.
Thus, 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 organising, promoting or arranging, or assisting in organising, 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 is likely to prejudice, the maintenance of harmony or unity,
on grounds of religion, between persons or groups of persons professing the same or different religions, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
The new Section 298A (2) provides:
“Whoever commits an offence specified in subsection (1) in or in the proximity of any place of worship or any assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremony, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both.”
Thus, not only acts that ‘causes or attempts to cause’ or ‘prejudice or attempt to prejudice’ are illegal, but even those acts which are ‘likely to cause disharmony’ or ‘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 serious undermining of the right of religious freedom as guaranteed by the constitution, by state and government interference in the practice, profession and propagation of non-Muslim religions.
As the purpose of the 2M government is to “uphold the sanctity of Islam, defend true Islamic values and Muslim unity in the country’, the Penal and Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill should not be so broadly drafted as to allow for state interference in the practice, profession and propagation of non-Muslim faiths.
The government should either confine the proposed new Section 298A in the Penal Code to Muslims wrongly preaching Islam, or suitable amendments should be made to the various state laws governing the administration of Islam. I am indeed shocked that the MCA, Gerakan, MIC, SUPP and Berjaya Ministers could agree in Cabinet to this new law.
Notice given to amend Universities and University Colleges (Amendment) Bill 1982 to allow for establishment of Merdeka University and other private universities
I have also today given notice to Parliament that I would be moving an amendment to the Universities and Universities Colleges (Amendment) Bill 1982 which seeks to establish the Islamic University outside the purview of the UCCA. My amendment takes the government proposal one step further by providing that not only universities established by international treaty are exempted from the operation of the UUCA, but private universities fully funded by the private sector like the Merdeka University, are also exempted from the operations of UUCA. I hope that the MCA, Gerakan, SUPP, Berjaya Ministers and MPs could give support to this DAP proposal in Parliament.