In between having to work, I thought idly about why the prosecutors chose to charge the two bloggers/forummers under the Sedition Act. One of the first thoughts that came to mind was ‘what about the Religious Harmony Act’? (The other thought was, ‘wah lao, now damn crowded, better wait until 2pm to have lunch).
At least one other blogger has asked the same question as well.
So, I searched online for the Religious Harmony Act. And couldn’t find it.
It’s called ‘Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act‘, implying, in my opinion, that there already is religious harmony, and that this Act of Parliament was enacted to maintain this status quo.
Having found the Act, I found that the provisions therein (wah, therein, wherefore, artthou, therefore, golly, nabeh) did not quite provide for the acts allegedly committed by the two bloggers/forummers.
The closest the Act comes to doing so can be said to be contained in ss 8-9:
Restraining orders against other persons9. â€”(1) Where the Minister is satisfied that â€”
(a) any person is inciting, instigating or encouraging any religious group or religious institution or any person mentioned in subsection (1) of section 8 to commit any of the acts specified in that subsection;
(b) any person, other than persons mentioned in subsection (1) of section 8, has committed or is attempting to commit any of the acts specified in paragraph (a) of that subsection,
he may make a restraining order against him.
where ‘acts specified in the subsection’ are:
(a) causing feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different religious groups;
(b) carrying out activities to promote a political cause, or a cause of any political party while, or under the guise of, propagating or practising any religious belief;
(c) carrying out subversive activities under the guise of propagating or practising any religious belief; or
(d) exciting disaffection against the President or the Government while, or under the guise of, propagating or practising any religious belief.
the prosecutors might have had trouble putting this case under this piece of legislation because:
You need to prove causation (s8.1(a) – where the act = “causing feelings of enmity, et cetera“, as opposed to “any act that causes feelings of enmity, et cetera” ). We could say that the act at issue in this matter was that the two bloggers wrote (typed) racist comments, whereas they might have one more step to prove that they ’caused feelings of enmity, et cetera’.
Eh? This piece of legislation no need prosecutors or judges or courts one, Minister say so can already. How come Minister haven’t say so?
Restraining Order? What good is a restraining order if you can only punish them if they break the restraining order?
Enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different religious groups? Don’t have leh, one side got religious concern and could be construed as a religious group, the other side… where’s the other side?
Now, folks, you may understand clearer now that the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act was enacted for a different intent. And for some of us, (who are more concerned with what to eat for lunch) we are clearer now as to the purposes of several other pieces of legislation, notwithstanding the fact that the language these pieces of legislation are couched in can very easily cause the provisions to be construed as instruments used to maintain an authoritarian regime.
Race and religion are very much intertwined in our national situation. I don’t know if it’s wrong to have further discussion on the matter of race, religion and ethnic identity, especially as regards Malay-Muslim identity, which is one where a person of ethnic Malay origin could say, ‘I am Malay, therefore I am Muslim’, whereas a person of ethnic Chinese origin cannot say ‘I am Chinese, therefore I am Buddhist’.
I know this is simplistic, but so is our national policy of persisting with classifying ‘race’ – a three dishes and ‘economy rice’ pigeonhole system which immediately highlights it’s own fallibility: Did you know that a child of a Indian father and a Chinese mother is classified ‘Indian’?
You may end up having for instance this situation: an ‘inter-racial’ marriage that spawns four more generations of inter-marriages – ethnic Indian great grandfather + Chinese great grandmother => Indian grandfatherfather + Malay grandmother => Indian father + Chinese mother => Children who still hold birth certificates and identity cards that classify them as ‘Indian’.
Apart from having to think a little bit more than we’re used to, what else do we come away with knowing as bloggers and otherwise upright citizens of this fine country? That racism in all forms is bad, and should rightly be taken as a threat to our fair nation’s cohesion, a threat that can be construed as one that has a tendency to be seditious.
We’d be mistaken if we were to say that racism did not exist in this country, and that just because there’s a national citizens’ pledge (what about the PRs?) that says we should build a nation based on justice and equality, that we would have been rid of this blight. We could say the retention of the Sedition Act shows we’re not yet rid of it, amongst other evils, and if we can have a Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, surely we could have a Maintenance of Racial Harmony Act or an Anti-Racial Vilification Act?
Having asked that, one of my American business partners asked me today what the whole furore was about, and I told her. Her response? – ‘Well it (racism) should be an offence against the State! It does make sense!’
Now, what to eat for lunch? Food court sounds good. All foods from all creeds. Got aircon can already.