THE National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) Working Committee on Law and Policy, has drafted three harmony Bills and they are the Racial and Religious Hate Crime Bill, National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill and National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Bill.
These draft Bills were tabled at the third NUCC full council meeting held on May 17.
It was agreed that this is still at a draft stage and should be presented to various stakeholders both in the Government and civil society for feedback and input.
It is important to state that these draft Bills are not the final version and still are in the working committee stage. They have not been deliberated and agreed upon by the NUCC full council.
When deliberated by the NUCC full council and if agreed upon they will be part of the NUCC report and NUCC Draft Blueprint for National Unity which will be presented to the Prime Minister.
The NUCC working committee has been holding discussion sessions and a third such public discussion was hosted by Proham and the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) on June 5 where draft copies were circulated and where Lim Chee Wee made a presentation.
This discussion was well attended and over the past few days a number of comments and concerns were aired in the media arising from this open discussion.
The NUCC working committee welcomes the comments and recognises that this is a consultative process and that the work of the working committee is open for review and deliberation.
The NUCC as a whole has adopted an open policy and has hosted public dialogues in a “town hall” approach called Dailog Perpaduan in 18 major towns throughout Malaysia. A total of 5,491 people participated of whom 512 spoke and 1,159 people submitted their views in writing. They represent a cross section of Malaysian society, especially the grassroots.
The NUCC is, therefore, not an elitist organisation and continues to engage with all individuals and groups. Circulating the draft Bills and holding public discussions even at the drafting stage is illustrative of our participatory and transparent approach.
In this context a number of key questions were raised and the NUCC working committee on Law and Policy has found it necessary to provide some initial responses.
Firstly, it has been said that the Bills have been drafted with no consultation with wider Malaysian society.
Yes, the Bills were drafted by NUCC members in the NUCC Working Committee on Law and Policy. But it is not a final document but in draft stage and therefore is circulated for feedback and comment both from agencies, civil society and the general public.
It is not a final document and the NUCC full council has not deliberated on this. The public, therefore, has the opportunity to review the Bills and make suggestions.
Secondly, there could be some confusion as there were news reports that the draft Bills have been presented to the Cabinet by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri.
The Cabinet is aware of the draft Bills but no decision has been made.
Thirdly, there was a call for a White Paper to be issued with justifications for such laws.
We recognise that this is a good suggestion. However, the responsibility is with the Federal Government and this approach has not been the way the current Federal administration has used in introducing new Bills.
However, the NUCC recognises that there is a need for a background paper providing the need and justification on why these Bills should be introduced and how these laws will enhance inter-racial harmony and address the current issues related to hate speeches and acts by certain parties.
Fourthly, some have indicated that the proposed Bills have questioned the position of the Malay Rulers in Article 37 (1), and some fundamentals in the Federal Constitution such as Article 3, Article 153 as well as erode the position of the judiciary.
The NUCC working committee categorically disagrees with this interpretation and affirms that none of the core fundamentals of the Federal Constitution such as Articles 3, 8, 37, 152 and 153 are questioned, derogated from or interfered with.
In fact, the proposed Bills will enhance these provisions and provide greater protection in the public space for this. The NUCC working committee is prepared to have a discussion with the Malay Consultative Council on this matter so as to clarify this position.
Fifthly, there have been a number of questions pertaining to the usefulness of the draft Bills and its impact on democratic freedom.
Among these questions are, why the need for three new Bills to replace the Sedition Act. Is the Penal Code not sufficient in addressing the current problems pertaining to hate speech and action?
Concerns were expressed that more laws will adversely affect freedom of speech and curtail civil society advocacy. It was also suggested that the three Bills be made into one Bill. Others have asked if these new laws will really be able to stop rising polarisation in Malaysian society.
It is important to note that any legislation in itself is not a magic wand and a solution to all our inter-ethnic issues. However, legislation can serve as an instrument to contribute towards greater protection for harmony.
The NUCC working committee in its deliberation found that the Penal Code was insufficient, but we will review this point. It must, however, be complemented by public awareness and education on the one hand and with the political will and leadership in resolving conflict.
The NUCC is open to comments and criticisms and encourage more stakeholder discussion and input. We welcome you to visit the NUCC website (www.nucc.my) to read the draft bills.
DATUK DR MUJAHID YUSOF RAWA (CHAIR)
LIM CHEE WEE (DEPUTY CHAIR)
NUCC Working Committee on Law and Policy
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