KUALA LUMPUR: Lawmakers from both sides of the divide have supported a call to introduce laws to outlaw racism following a fracas that occurred near Universiti Malaya (UM) last Friday (March 22).
Ramkarpal Singh (PH-Bukit Gelugor) asked the government whether it was prepared to enact legislation to outlaw and criminalise racism.
“Last year, we heard a minister say that a few laws would be introduced to address the issue of racism. This must be hastened," he said while debating the motion of thanks to the Royal Address.
The proposal received the support of both Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian) and Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radian (BN-Kinabatangan), who shouted, “I agree”.
In the March 22 incident, students demonstrated across the street of a restaurant near UM where Datuk Seri Najib Razak was giving a talk.
The students were allegedly manhandled by the former prime minister's supporters.
A video of the scuffle shared on the social media showed Najib's supporters, including Umno supreme council member Datuk Lookman Noor Adam, accosting the students.
Ramkarpal said the group of students were merely holding a peaceful assembly to express their views against the former prime minister.
He also urged the government to reveal how many individuals had been arrested due to the incident.
“Some people have argued that what the students did can be considered sensitive.
“How can you justify the violent act?
“The incident went viral, we have videos and photos of what transpired. Is this something really hard for the authorities to address?
“Are those individuals so hard to track, similar to the fugitive Jho Low (LowTaek Jho), where we do not know where they are and are unable to arrest any of them?” he said.
Ramkarpal added that Parliament was the best platform to raise such an issue, in a bid to move towards outlawing racism.
“Isn't the Dewan Rakyat the best place to create legislation outlawing racism?” he said.
RSN Rayer (PH-Jelutong) asked if there was any direct involvement by Najib, since the alleged suspect had taken photos with the former prime minister.
In response, Ahmad Maslan said after watching video recordings of the incident, it was unfair of the students to describe Najib as a thief (perompak).
“I would like to ask in which court in the country was Najib sentenced as a thief,” said Ahmad Maslan.
Kasthuri Patto (PH-Batu Kawan) interjected, saying that the incident also involved the harassment of female journalists who covered the event.
“Not just students, speaker, but also female journalists – I think they have to be responsible for this,” she said.
Ramkarpal said there is no justification for violence against the students.
“Whether Pekan is sentenced or not, it is irrelevant, we should not allow any attacks to take place.
“Let us all throw our support behind legislation outlawing racism,” said Ramkarpal.
Last year, after initially promising to do so, the Malaysian government decided against ratifying the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd).