Kit Siang: Muhyiddin’s call for tougher stance against hate speech in Asean should begin with own Perikatan govt
Lim called on Muhyiddin to denounce Ahmad Marzuk’s statement on Act 355. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22 — DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang said Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s call for Asean to take a tougher stance against hate speech, including those based on gender and sexual orientation, should first start within his own administration.

The Iskandar Puteri MP was referring to the prime minister’s keystone speech at the Asean Digital Ministers’ Meeting yesterday where he called for more legislation in the region against hate speech. 

“Muhyiddin Yassin needs to prove that he does not speak one language for the international audience, but takes a different action in domestic policies.

“For a start, he must declare that Religious Affairs Deputy Minister Ahmad Marzuk Shaary’s statement on Act 355 does not represent his government’s policy and is against the government’s priorities during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in a statement this morning.

On Tuesday, Ahmad Marzuk said the Perikatan Nasional administration is not ruling out the possibility of amending the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act 355 to provide for heavier punishments on lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. He said the current sentence under the Act is perceived as not having much effect on such groups of individuals.

Lim also called upon Muhyiddin to set an example of good governance by cancelling a project to build three community halls, costing some RM35.43 million, in his constituency of Pagoh, where there are already existing community halls which have not been fully utilised. 

Lim said the money should be used to ease people’s hardships during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is also essential that to maintain public trust and confidence in an ‘all-of-government’ and ‘whole-of-society’ strategy and approach, Covid-19 should not be exploited to enable the commission of any misuse of power,  fraud, corruption or any discriminatory action against any race, religion or section of Malaysia’s diverse population,” he said. 

Lim also criticised Kedah Mentri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Mohd Nor’s recent decision to cancel Thaipusam as a public holiday in the state amid mounting daily infections as one such example of discrimination.

“Is this the decision of the mentri besar himself or is it the decision of the Kedah state executive council? If it is the mentri besar, then the Kedah exco should countermand the decision.

“If it is the decision of the Kedah state exco, the other parties in the state coalition government, namely Parti Pribumi Bersatu and Umno, must explain why they have taken such an insensitive and discriminatory decision and whether the respective party headquarters would instruct their exco members to reverse the decision,” Lim said. 

After his decision was criticised by many, Muhammad Sanusi in a statement yesterday said Kedah’s decision not to observe Thaipusam, which falls on Jan 28, as a public holiday, was not meant to deny the rights of Hindus in the state.

He said worshippers can still celebrate the festival by adhering to the standard operating procedures (SOP) to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

He added that all this while, Thaipusam is not a public holiday in Kedah except for the last two years, where it had been made cuti peristiwa (special holiday).