The National Harmony Act, which is being drawn up to replace the Sedition Act 1948, will not affect the power of the government in handling actions that jeopardise national solidarity and harmony, said Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The Prime Minister said although the government wanted to guarantee freedom of speech for all Malaysians, this freedom should not be abused to endanger national solidarity and harmony.
“The insolent and impudent act by the young couple who insulted the Islamic religion (recently) demonstrated the freedom of expression, and any irresponsible opinion can bring jeopardy to the community,” he said at a media conference at his office in Putrajaya today.
A blogging couple, Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee, was widely criticised for ridiculing Muslims and the Ramadan month by uploading a photograph showing them enjoying the bak kut teh (a pork dish) with a caption that offended the sensitivity of Muslims in the social website, Facebook.
The Prime Minister said the government would ensure that the provisions in the new act would maintain the three major principles in tackling activities that would cause hatred and/or insult institutions and existing provisions in the constitution.
He said the first principle referred to matters tackling actions and activities that would lead to the feeling of hatred or insults or disloyal acts against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or any other Ruler.
“Secondly, to tackle acts that will encourage malicious feelings and enmity between the various ethnic groups in the country,” he said.
He said the third principle referred to matters tackling acts that disputed any matters pertaining to the special privileges, sovereignty or prerogative stipulated or protected by the provision in section three of the Federal Constitution or articles 153, 151 and 181 of the Federal Constitution.
Najib said that in his opinion, the nation needed to determine principles that could look after the interest of the nation including the matter of racial harmony as well as the position of religion.
“This is not a matter pertaining to the Islamic religion only, but also involved all ethnic groups, the sensitivity of all races and religion. We will be fair, the principle is that we cannot insult the religion, cannot incite the feelings of hatred against other races,” he said.
“If we don't take stern action on this matter, it can destroy the main pillar of the nation, that is, national solidarity and national harmony. We have to be firm on this matter. I have always emphasised that the principle is freedom, but it has to be supplemented with the principle of accountability,” he added.
“Freedom with responsibility, there cannot be absolute freedom at the expense of national interest and national harmony, that is the clear position of the government, we will maintain this,” Najib said. – Bernama, July 17, 2013.