Lawyers have ganged up against Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim (pic) for urging the Attorney-General (A-G) to prosecute a DAP assemblyman under the controversial Sedition Act for his “Umno celaka” remark in the Penang state assembly earlier this week.
They said RSN Rayer, the Seri Delima assemblyman, enjoyed immunity as he did not question the rights of Malay Rulers and the Malays nor promote feelings of hostility among different races.
The lawyers questioned why Shahidan who is the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Deparment, dragged the A-G Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail into this debate as Rayer’s remark was targeted at Umno, a political party that did not exclusively represent the Malays.
The lawyers said there was nothing seditious as Umno was not a special entity to be protected under the Sedition Act as there are also Malays who are members of other political parties within the Barisan Nasional coalition and the opposition pact.
In fact, they reminded Shahidan that Umno’s membership in Sabah is made up also of Bumiputera of various ethnicity in that state.
The lawyers were responding to Shahidan’s call to Gani to frame charges against Rayer for using the derogatory word “Umno celaka” during the proceedings on Tuesday.
Shahidan had earlier said Rayer’s remark was not only against the law but was also an insult to Malays in general.
Lawyer Syahredzan Johan questioned why must the A-G step into a private matter about remarks made about Umno.
He said Umno leaders could resort to peaceful means to express their displeasure against Rayer like passing a motion in state assemblies controlled by the Barisan Nasional.
“They can use the traditional and social media to influence the public,” he said, adding Umno members could also assemble peacefully to express their unhappiness with Rayer.
Shahredzan said he was also perplexed with Shahidan’s call to the A-G to use the sedition law when his boss, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had promised to repeal it.
“I can only infer that Shahidan is not on the same page with the prime minister on this,” he said.
Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen (pic, left) said Shahidan’s call was mind-boggling and illogical for Rayer did not abuse nor insult the Malay race and Umno need not get offended.
“The line between Umno and Malays must not be blurred as they are not the same thing. Umno is just a political party like the DAP,” he said.
Paulsen said the A-G should be more concerned with those who invaded the state assembly and prosecute the offenders so that similar incidents would not recur.
He said 33 people were charged with causing public disorder when they marched towards Parliament last year to present a memorandum to call for the sacking of Election Commission officials for their failure to hold free and fair elections at the last national polls.
“The police and the A-G were quick in their action then and I hope they will show the same enthusiasm when dealing with those who illegally tresspased the state assembly,” he added.
Lawyer Abd Shukor Ahmad said Shahidan’s call to use the Sedition Act againt Rayer was misconceived and could not be supported by law.
“Shahidan and other Umno leaders are wrong to interpret that the criticism against their party was also an attack against the Malays,” he said.
He said Rayer’s controversial statement came about as politicians from both sides of the divide “often engage their mouth first rather than their brains”.
Shukor said the legal fraternity and civil society were against the reliance on the Sedition Act to be used against government critics in a democratic system like Malaysia.
“What more when a Miinister is now urging the A-G to use that same law for only making a disparaging remark about his party,” he said.
Rayer made the “Umno celaka” remark on Tuesday when he cited an incident at a rally in Seberang Jaya on January 18, where demonstrators held a banner which read “Because of DAP leaders’ mouth, May 13, 1969 happened… Want some more?”.
The rally was organised by Malay non-governmental organisations that were unhappy with Machang Bubuk assemblyman Lee Khai Loon for his “I love Kangkung” flashmob several days earlier.
The flashmob saw an effigy of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak being “fed” with kangkung (water spinach), a gesture that made fun of the leader’s earlier remark that the price of the vegetable had gone down.
On Wednesday a group of 30 stormed the Penang legislative assembly building demanding to see Rayer.
They made it into the building, disrupted the sitting but were escorted out 10 minutes later.
BY V. ANBALAGAN, The Malaysian Insider