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The regression of our society

Yesterday, the video ‘Samseng attack GHAH @ Speakers Square Penang’ by YouTube user Advotool Media came to my attention. For those of you who did not watch it, basically, Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH)’s Penang coordinator Ong Jing Cheng as well as a few others were heckled and pushed around during their peaceful gathering at Speaker’s Square in Penang.

“Unacceptable, abhorrent, repulsive, barbaric, uncivilised, undemocratic, illegal, insolent, untenable, quixotic, unscrupulous, boorish, cockamamie, craven, dastardly, egregious, odious, and asinine” were some of the words that flashed through my mind as I watched the seven minutes and thirty seconds video

Aren’t the troublemakers worried about the civil and criminal repercussions of their actions? The few that instantly came to mind were: psychic assault, battery/physical assault, and the use of criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation (Section 352 of the Penal Code).

The Coalition of Penang Islamic NGOs even had the gall to say that they were merely asserting their freedom of speech! It seems as though as our society is regressing instead of progressing.

Under what sick and twisted logic does the freedom of expression allow you to physically and verbally abuse another person? Just as you have the right to speak responsibly, the other person does, too.

The Coalition of Penang Islamic NGOs blamed the Pakatan Rakyat state government for promoting freedom of expression by opening up a Speaker’s Square.

The coalition’s general secretary was quoted as saying, “The move by the state government to allow a Speaker’s Square and to allow freedom of speech is causing havoc, fights and all sorts of incidents.”

As we should know, the freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 10 of our federal constitution, and is subjected to the laws of our land on defamation, criminal intimidation, assult, insult, etc.

Therefore, the Penang government’s act of opening a Speaker’s Square for people to speak their mind is in line with Article 10 and is a good step in enhancing democracy in our nation

Ahmad Yakuub’s statement that “every Sunday, from 6pm to 7pm, we (the public) are free to say what we want at the Speaker’s Square, it does not matter whether it is to instigate people” is nothing short of misleading.

The Penang government does NOT have the right to allow a person to speak freely and shield them from criminal prosecution. Hence, those who misuse the freedom at the Speaker’s Square to defame or instigate others will face the full brunt of the law.

Conditions

The use of the Speakers’ Square is subject to the following conditions :

1. All speakers are prohibited from using loudspeakers, megaphone and any other public address system.

2. Anyone who uses the Speakers’ Square to make speeches does so at his or her own risk.

3. The state government and the Municipal Council of Penang Island will not be responsible for any prosecution or legal action by the police or civil proceedings

Condition 1 was clearly violated as someone from the pro-Sedition Act camp used a megaphone to drown out GHAH’s Penang coordinator Ong Jing Cheng

Condition 3 clearly substantiates my point that one is still responsible for what he/she says at the Speaker’s Square. The Speaker’s Square is but a mere platform for a person to air his/her views, and for people to have debates and discussions. Speaking there DOES NOT confer an immunity upon the speaker

This is unlike the legal immunity of parliamentary privilege in which our elected representatives are granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made (subject to the rule of unparliamentary language) in the course of their legislative duties.

Such a right is necessary to ensure that even the most controversial issues get debated in Parliament.

At the time of writing, no action has been taken against the perpetrators. The police has to be swift in castigating the individuals behind the vile act, regardless of whether a police report is/was made or not

The attorney-general (AG) should also expeditiously prosecute those involved and make it a lesson to everyone that such behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated!

If the inspector-general of police (IGP) or the AG can’t do their job properly, it’s high time we replace them with competent individuals. Day after day it seems like our country is heading towards lawlessness!

Besides the initiation of criminal proceedings, Ong Jing Cheng and the British couple can and should sue the scallywags under the law of tort for the assault and battery they underwent.


JOSHUA WU is a first year law student who blogs at www.rebuttedopinions.wordpress.com

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