HOLLYWOOD has something called The Black List. Started in 2005 by a film executive named Franklin Leonard, it is an annual survey that asks hundreds of movie industry players to name their favourites from the year’s scripts that have not yet been turned into feature films.
This showcase of most-liked unproduced screenplays has become commercially and culturally influential, often persuading movie makers to embrace promising but neglected projects, and boosting the careers of fledgling writers.
According to The Black List website, over 300 screenplays featured in past lists have been made as feature films that have collectively earned over US$26bil (RM110.1bil) in worldwide box office. A number of these movies have received Oscar recognition.
Imagine if Malaysia had a Black List for proposed laws that have not made it to Parliament. Such a list would reflect Malaysians’ desire for changes in how the authorities deal with the country’s major issues.
The National Harmony Bills should be on that list. Drafted by the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), the trio of Bills are the Racial and Religious Hate Crimes Bill, the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill, and the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Bill.
If passed into law, the Racial and Religious Hate Crimes Bill would make it a criminal offence to incite racial and religious hatred.
Under the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill, it is mandatory for the Government and all persons to promote equality. It also prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, birthplace, gender and disability.
The third Bill provides for the formation of a National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission and an Unfair Discrimination Tribunal.
The NUCC was set up in September 2013 primarily in response to the outcome of the 13th General Election held in May that year.
“Based on the general observation and election trend at the time, indicators of racial polarisation began to surface and thus an independent mechanism was needed to discuss and find solutions in dealing with the racial polarisation issues and unity,” explains the National Unity and Integration Department.
The following year, the NUCC began gathering feedback on its drafts of the National Harmony Bills, which were meant to replace the Sedition Act 1948.
This followed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s announcement in July 2012 that the Sedition Act would be repealed as part of the country’s political transformation plan. At the time, the planned replacement was a single piece of legislation called the new National Harmony Act.
Since then, the Government has decided to retain the Sedition Act. And the Bills have not been tabled in Parliament. In fact, some people have assumed that the proposed laws would never be enacted.
However, recent developments and incidents in Malaysia have re-energised the national discussion on discrimination and extremism. And there have been calls for the Government to revive the National Harmony Bills.
The good news is that at least the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill is still being worked on.
On Thursday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup said a new version of the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill was being drafted.
He added that the Government rejected three earlier versions because they had provisions that were inconsistent with the Federal Constitution.
“Personally, I hope we table the Bill during the upcoming parliamentary sitting but we still have to go through various steps, including tabling it in Cabinet first,” he was quoted as saying.
Many Malaysians are equally eager to see a new law that is designed to strengthen national unity. We know that good things come to those who wait, but the longer it takes, the greater the risk of our country being hurt by the issues that threaten our harmony.