Despite planned repeal, cops invoke sedition law in alternative flag probe
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 ― The police are investigating an alleged proposal to replace the Jalur Gemilang national flag under the Sedition Act, a Bukit Aman official said today ― despite Putrajaya’s decision to repeal the controversial law that has been widely panned as a tool to curb political dissent.
Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Zinin said the police were also using the same law to investigate individuals who had stepped on pictures of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, during a street rally last Thursday to celebrate the country’s 55th National Day at Dataran Merdeka ― the same venue that saw a violent clash between electoral reform demonstrators and the authorities just four months earlier on April 28.
“What was the purpose (in flying that flag)... we cannot tell what we are going to do; we have a strategy that is based on the rules and scope of the PDRM,” the director of Bukit Aman’s criminal investigations department (CID) said, referring to the initials of the Royal Malaysia Police in Malay.
“It is up to us to determine to what extent it is seditious,” he told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.
The firestorm that erupted last week has turned political, with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his Cabinet accusing the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition bloc of being behind the attempt and an intention to turn Malaysia into a republic.
Several individuals were spotted waving a flag with an alternative design ― now identified as the Sang Saka Malaya ― instead of the Jalur Gemilang at the Independence bash last Thursday night.
Others were also recorded tearing up posters bearing images of the prime minister, his wife and the Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof at the same event.
Mohd Bakri said the police were probing the flag incident as an attempt to incite hatred with intent to create public disorder under Section 4 (1)(a) of the Sedition Act 1948.
He added that stepping on pictures of Najib and wife were considered offences under Section 290 and Section 504 of the Penal Code for being public nuisances and provoking a breach of public peace respectively.
Those convicted of Section 290 can be fined up to RM400 while those found guilty of Section 504 can be jailed up to two years or fined, or both.
However, Section 4 (1)(a) of the Sedition Act prescribes a mandatory jail term of three years or a fine of up to RM5,000 for first offenders, which is subsequently raised to a five year imprisonment for repeated offences.
One person has owned up to waving the Sang Saka Malaya flag instead of the Jalur Gemilang during the 55th National Day countdown here last week but defended the act as an attempt to educate the public about the country’s history instead of being a bid to replace the national flag.
An unidentified person, known only by his online pseudonym Singa Selatan, had blogged about the incident in two entries over the weekend.
Mohd Bakri declined to comment if the police would act immediately against the blogger but urged the individuals responsible to step forward voluntarily to help the police in their investigations
“We are investigating the matter. He has to see the officer concerned or the Kuala Lumpur OCCI and give information to help investigations.
“If he does not come forward, we can take action against him based on the law,” he said, adding “we would be most appreciative if they can cooperate.”
According to the anonymous blogger, the Sang Saka Malaya — which sports a crescent moon and an 11-pointed star in the top left corner of the flag against a two-striped red and white background — was used by the first Malay party, Kesatuan Melayu Malaya (KMM) formed in 1938, which had fought against the colonial British for the country’s independence.
In a separate entry posted two days ago, the blogger added that he was stunned to see copies of a pamphlet calling for the Jalur Gemilang to be replaced with the Sang Saka Malaya and denied responsibility for its distribution.
“We have no intention to urge the government to replace the Jalur Gemilang with the Sang Saka Malaya.
“But we intend to change the government to a government that is more transparent,” the blogger wrote.
Opposition leaders from the DAP-PKR-PAS pact have denied they were behind any bid to replace the national flag, deploring the allegations from their political foes as “baseless” attempts to gain points ahead of the 13th general election due soon.
Political rivalry between BN and PR has intensified in recent days as the window for the next poll narrows in a race that could see a regime change in Malaysia for the first time in 55 years.