Groups call for protection of the right to speech


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 29 Dec 2019

PETALING JAYA: After the police barred Dong Jiao Zong from holding a meeting to discuss the implementation of the Jawi calligraphy module in vernacular schools, concerned groups are calling for the protection of the right to speech.

MCA central committee member Chan Quin Er said any citizen or organisation had the freedom to hold an assembly and express its opinion in accordance with the law.

“This move has denied the rights of Dong Jiao Zong and other Chinese organisations under the Constitution.

“The meeting is aimed at addressing education issues and does not involve race or religion.

“And it was supposed to be held in a hall, ” she said in a statement yesterday.

Dong Jiao Zong was served a court order on Friday barring it from holding the meeting scheduled to take place at the New Era University College yesterday.

Kajang OCPD Asst Comm Ahmad Dzaffir Mohd Yussof said the police had applied for the court order to maintain public order and safety.

Chan reiterated that neither MCA, Dong Jiao Zong nor the Chinese community had ever objected to the Jawi script.

“But we agree that it should be made an elective subject in vernacular schools, ” she said.

Chan added that the Education Ministry’s decision in the teaching of Jawi calligraphy sidelined the schools’ board of governors and their authority as decision-makers, calling it a “dangerous precedent”.

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang said the police force should take action against those who had threatened to cause unrest due to the meeting.

The Gelang Patah MP, however, acknowledged that the police were under intense pressure due to

“irresponsible and incendiary threats by extremist quarters”.

“Now the police have a greater responsibility to show that they are even-handed and take action against those who have threatened unrest over the closed-door gathering, ” he said in a statement yesterday.

PKR vice-president Tian Chua lauded Dong Jiao Zong’s decision to abide by the court order, saying that the educationist group and other NGOs could still deliberate the issue through other means such as dialogues and discussions.

Although concerns over the teaching of Jawi calligraphy were understandable, Chua added, “allowing children to learn basic Jawi characters and caligraphy won’t affect 5,000 years of Chinese culture and 2,000 years of Tamil history.”

Former law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who was supposed to speak during the now-cancelled meeting, lamented that “democracy is now dead”.

Expressing his disappointment in a statement yesterday, Zaid said he had expected the police to tell the would-be rioters that they would be punished if they proceeded with their threats.

Activist lawyer Siti Kasim, in a Facebook post, questioned why the police had applied for the cancellation order at the eleventh hour when “this issue is not something new that just cropped up today”.

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