PUTRAJAYA: While Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak gives a lot of leeway for conflicting and discordant views, he reminds his critics not to mistake his patience for weakness.
When told that some people had that perception of his “patience”, the Prime Minister said: “I do not regard that as a weakness. I would like to ask, do they want a situation where anyone who expresses an opinion is arrested under the ISA? Do we want that?
“Surely, the majority of Malaysians do not want such a situation.
“They want us to be a society that has latitude to express opinions, even if they differ,” he said in an interview with Bernama TV last night in conjunction with the 68th anniversary of Umno.
The Umno president, however, added that people should not go to the extent of doing harm to Malaysia.
The country has been embroiled in the hudud issue for the past several weeks, with emotions running high as certain groups took on a confrontational stance. Police have confirmed that Ikatan Muslimim Malaysia president Abdullah Zaik Abdullah Rahman is being investigated for alleged sedition after he was reported to have called the Chinese “trespassers” and questioned the citizenship given to them.
The Prime Minister believed that most Malaysians want greater latitude for political discourse, and that few wish for a return to the “era of the ISA”.
He said the Government was firm on its stand to repeal the Internal Security Act as it was convinced that this was what the majority of the people desired.
As the people became more open and mature, they did not want their opinions to be stifled or live in a state of fear, Najib said.
“I believe the majority of Malaysians want more latitude for political discourse. If you make an evaluation, not all want to return to the era of the ISA,” he added.
In 2011, the government, fulfilling a pledge, repealed three Emergency Proclamations which led to the abolition of the Emergency Ordinance, the Internal Security Act, Banishment Act and the Restricted Residence Act.
It also amended the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and repealed Section 27 of the Police Act.
Subsequently, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act was gazetted in June 2012 to maintain public order and security after the abolition of the ISA, which allowed for detention without trial.
Also introduced was the Peaceful Assembly Act to ensure freedom of speech according to proper channels while ensuring that public peace was not affected to protect the rights and freedom of others.
As for pressure from certain groups wanting the ISA to be brought back, Najib was convinced that the new laws provided adequate power for the Government to act against any attempt to destroy national peace and harmony.
He said stern action could also be taken under the Sedition Act against anyone touching on sensitive issues or taking any action that could lead to racial conflict in the country.
“We certainly take action based on the law in the country, but not to arrest anyone arbitrarily under the ISA. I believe if we do this, more people will be angry at the government,” he said.
Najib said the Government could not only accept the views of certain groups because what was important was the opinions of the majority. — Bernama
Full transcript of Najib's interview on Umno's 68th anniversary