Wednesday January 16, 2013
Harmony Act must be specific, says D-G
KUALA LUMPUR: The proposed National Harmony Act should be clear and the offences under it precisely defined to prevent abuse, said National Unity and Integration director-general Datuk Azman Amin Hassan.
While some were of the view that the Act should not have punitive measures, he said penalties could be limited to specific negative actions such as hate speeches.
“There must be no vagueness or blanket application as to the sensitivities that the Act may seek to protect,” he said during a session themed Legislating National Harmony at the Transformation of Security and Fundamental Rights Legislation Con-ference here yesterday.
“If the Act is to contain provisions against hate speech or action detrimental to national harmony, Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, which talks about the equality of all persons, must also be incorporated, in that crimes against national harmony must not only be racial in nature but cover sub-groups such as sexual minorities, migrant workers and refugees,” he said.
Azman said he was also of the opinion that the Act should include religious belief as a facet of ethnic and national identity and that this should be fairly implemented and interpreted so that all ethnic groups and social sub-groups receive equal protection under it.
It was also important, he added, for civil society, religious and community leaders and the public to be given an opportunity to submit their views on what the Act should entail.
Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said any law reform must only deal with the criminalisation of hate speech and prohibition of discrimination.
“Legislation should not attempt to regulate all aspects of racial relations as this will be tantamount to trying to distil complex human relationships and emotions to legal definitions and tests,” he said, adding that laws in Britain could be used as an example to clearly spell out hate speech.