PETALING JAYA,Feb 11: Politicians and an activist have derided a proposal outlawing insults of the prime minister, saying the people have the right to praise or criticise elected leaders.
Subang MP Wong Chen of PKR said the proposal will further push Malaysia into authoritarianism and also weaken the economy.
“The government is supposed to protect everyone’s freedom of speech and not to clip it further,” he told FMT. He said most Malaysians are “well behaved and many of the political comments I have read on social media are creative and funny.”
“If people cannot criticise authorities in jest, then what will be next? Will we be required to only praise the prime minister in social media?,” he said.
Fahri Azzat, a civil liberties lawyer, said events unfolding within the ruling government showed there is a political emergency which caused them to declare a national emergency.
“When we look at that context, a person can better appreciate why they need to tell us to shut up on things they don’t like to hear about the prime minister,” he said.
“But the prime minister is the top civil servant and serves the public. The public are entitled to give their feedback, whether he likes it or not, they have to listen to the public and understand their frustrations,” he told FMT.
The proposal for a new law on critical comment was made by senator Razali Idris of PPBM, chairman of the Dewan Negara caucus on people’s wellbeing.
His call for a new stricter law came after comments were posted against prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin on an Indonesian website after his visit there last week.
Fahri said there are sufficient legal options for the prime minister to take action if he feels a particular allegation has gone beyond the legal threshold.
He added if the government goes ahead with the proposed laws it could be seen as ” an abuse of legislation using collateral purpose to shut political dissent.”
Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, chairman of Parti Socialis Malaysia, said the country needs proper debates, contestation of ideas and analysis to move forward, which cannot be done by instilling fear.
However, the former Sungai Siput MP said the government needs to put a stop to hate speech inciting violence or racially insensitive remarks which are mostly made by the politicians to stay in power.
“Politicians are the biggest culprits who play on race to build their own political career to get support. But they are damaging the unity of the country,” said Jeyakumar.
Klang MP Charles Santiago said the prime minister is elected by the people and he is accountable to the nation.
“People are bound to praise and criticise you. But what the senator wants here are just praises without any brickbats. But the rakyat has the right to question the prime minister,” added Santiago.