In Malaysia, it is not an offense to threaten to burn bibles or buildings

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 8th of October, 2014

On the 22nd of May, 2014, a group of UMNO Youth Federal Territories leaders and members, led by Razlan Rafii, protested in front of the DAP Headquarters at Jalan Yew, off Jalan Pudu. During this protest, Razlan Rafii threatened to burn down the DAP Headquarters. I made a police report on the same day at the Pudu Police Department (Laporan Polis PUDU/004003/14) and provided video evidence to the police of the threats made by Razlan Rafii.

On the 26th of May, the police arrested 6 UMNO Youth leaders, including Razlan Rafii. It was reported that they were being probed under Section 427 of the Penal Code for causing mischief and damage and Section 506 for criminal intimidation.[1] It is very clear under Section 506 of the Penal Code that a threat to cause the destruction of any property by fire is punishable offence (see below).

Punishment for criminal intimidation

506. Whoever commits the offence of criminal intimidation shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both; and if the threat is to cause death or grievous hurt, or to cause the destruction of any property by fire, or to cause an offence punishable with death or imprisonment, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or to impute unchastity to a woman, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years or with fine or with both.

I asked a Parliamentary question to obtain an update on the progress of this case in this current session and I received the following reply yesterday from the Minister of Home Affairs:

Kertas Siasatan telah lengkap dan telah diedarkan ke Pejabat Peguam Negara pada 17 September 2014 dan telah memutuskan kes No Further Action (NFA). Siasatan diteruskan bagi kesalahan di bawah Sekysen 9 (5) Akta Perhimpunan Aman kerana berhimpun tanpa kebenaran atau notis.

Translation: The investigation papers have been completed and passed on to the Attorney General’s Office on the 17th of September and the decision was made of No Further Action on this case. The investigation will continue to determine if any offence under Section 9 (5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act had taken place because of assembling without permission or giving of advance notice.

I strongly condemn the decision made by the Attorney General not to prosecute and charge Razlan Rafii when he had clearly threatened to burn down the DAP Headquarters. His actions were widely reported in the newspapers and was captured and uploaded on youtube for public consumption. I even identified Razlan Rafii in a line-up conducted by the police. Does this mean that the Attorney General is giving tacit approval for others to threaten to burn down the buildings housing the offices of opposition parties? Or that it is okay to threaten to burn down buildings more generally and not face any consequences?

In yesterday’s Parliamentary questions, Lim Guan Eng, MP for Bagan, also asked if any action would be taken against the president of Perkasa, Ibrahim Ali, for threatening to burn the Malay bibles.[2] The Parliamentary reply was the following:

Berhubung kes membabitkan Dato’ Ibrahim bin Ali, Presiden PERKASA, hasil siasatan Polis DiRaja Malaysia (PDRM) menunjukkan bahawa:

(a)    Kata-kata yang diucapkan oleh beliau adalah ditujukan kepada individu-individu yang telah mengedar naskhah “Bible” yang mengandungi kalimah Allah dan juga tulisan Jawi kepada pelajar-pelajar di Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Jelutong, Pulau Pinang termasuk pelajar Melayu

(b)   Kenyataan yang dibuat oleh beliau tersebut tidak berniat untuk menimbulkan kekecohan agama tetapi hanya untuk mempertahankan kesucian agama Islam.

Translation: In relation to the case involving Dato’ Ibrahim bin Ali, President of PERKASA, the investigation conducted by the Royal Malaysian Police showed that:

(a)    The words spoken by Dato’ Ibrahim was directed at the individuals who were distributing copies of the ‘Bible’ which contained the world Allah and also Jawi writing to students in SMK Jelutong, Pulau Pinang including Malay students

(b)   The statements made by Dato’ Ibrahim was not intended to incite religious tensions but only to protect the sanctity of Islam

Does this mean that one can now threaten to burn sacred texts of other religions all in the name of protecting one’s own religion?

Taking the results of both of these cases, does that mean that it is now permissible to threaten to burn down churches where BM or Indonesian bibles containing the word Allah are being used by Christians?

These decisions make a total mockery of Prime Minister Najib’s attempt to ‘brand’ Malaysia internationally as a so called “Moderate” country when his government allows those who threaten to burn down buildings and bibles to go unpunished.