LETTER | Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is appalled by the calls of many in Malaysia including Pakatan Harapan-led government ministers Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, Gobind Singh, M Kulasegaran and Xavier Jayakumar that Indian national, Zakir Naik, be deported. If Zakir Naik has committed an offence in Malaysia, then they should be asking that he be charged and accorded a fair trial.
If someone has committed a crime, it is unconscionable, especially for members of Parliament or ministers, to simply ask that he be sent out of the country beyond the jurisdiction of the Malaysian courts. They should be pushing for Zakir Naik to be charged and tried him in a Malaysia. This could be done very fast given the facts and circumstances of this case.
Madpet is appalled that the police have prevented Zakir Naik from speaking in Perlis and that he should inform them of the contents of his speeches in the future. This is against one’s freedom of expression and opinion and it is wrong for the police to arbitrarily do this. Are we a police state, where the police chief has so much power?
As for vetting his speeches, it is certainly wrong, and discriminatory. Will the police be requiring every other speaker at any public events to tell the police in advance what he/she will say – and then the police will "decide" what you can say and what you cannot say? This is a violation of our human rights.
What law is the police relying on? Is it that draconian Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 that allows the police to impose "restrictions" and "conditions" on the exercise of our right to peaceful assembly? The Peaceful Assembly Act, a law that police can arbitrarily impose whatever restrictions and conditions, ought to be repealed. A violation of any such police restrictions and/or conditions now becomes a crime.
We recall during the BN reign, there was, I believe, at least one DAP-organised event where the police imposed a condition that there be no political speeches. The same also happened for other peaceful assemblies.
Well, such draconian laws must be repealed and one should always be free to exercise one’s freedom of expression and opinion and also the right to peaceful assembly. If, however, later, there is a breach of law in the exercising such rights and freedoms, then the said person/s could be investigated, charged and/or tried for the said crimes.
We may not agree or even be angered by someone’s opinion or speech, but that is what the right to freedom of expression is all about. It is not only the right to say things that we agree to but also to say things that may annoy us. It is a human right and it must be respected.
It is also sad that two ministers, Gobind Singh Deo and M Kulasegaran, were also reported asking that restrictions be placed on the Zakir Naik that he not be able to speak at public forums or say anything that will jeopardise race relations and public order in Malaysia.
One must never forget the legal principle that one is innocent until one is proven guilty in a court of law after a fair trial. Even if this relates to the infamous Zakir Naik, there is no justification for the police to impose a "gag order" or restrict any of his human rights.
Are the two ministers asking for "detention without trial" laws like the Prevention of Crimes Act 1959 (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota) and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985, whereby these laws allow for administrative detention and restrictions to be imposed? Under such laws, it is only the administration, not the judiciary, that imposes such restrictions and/or detentions, and the victim cannot even challenge the reasons for detention/restrictions in court vide a judicial review.
Sadly, the new "alternative" government has not yet abolished "detention without trial" laws in Malaysia. Madpet calls for all "detention without trial" laws to be abolished. The right to a fair trial must be respected in all cases.
If there is a desire to "gag" Zakir Naik or to restrict his freedom to talk about certain matters, then rightfully, an application to the court should be made, where the said Zakir Naik rightfully will be given a right to be heard before the court decides on the matter.
It is to be noted that the Malaysian police have begun investigations on Zakir Naik. Given the nature of this case, this is a matter that could be speedily investigated, and there is no reason, if an offence is believed to be committed, to see the said Zakir Naik being charged in court by next week.
Ministers, MPs and politicians must always uphold the rule of law and uphold the cause of justice without fear or favour. They should be guided by values and principles, and should not simply take positions to appease the populace for fear of losing popular support amongst certain classes of people.
- Calls for Zakir Naik to be investigated, charged and tried in Malaysia if he has broken Malaysian laws before any attempt is made to send him out of Malaysia to ensure justice is done;
- Calls for the removal of police powers to restrict, gag or vet anyone’s right to freedom of expression and/or opinion, and freedom of assembly;
- Reiterates the call for Malaysia to repeal the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and all such laws, which allow the police or government authorities to curtail and/or impede our human rights to freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and freedom of peaceful assembly;
- Respect the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, repeal detention without trial laws, and ensure that all in Malaysia have the right to a fair trial.
- Call on Malaysian members of Parliament, ministers, politicians and government to always act based on principles, values and human rights, and not succumb to taking "anti-justice" positions by reason of fear of losing popular support amongst certain classes of Malaysians.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.