Police reports over those accused of insulting Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad on social media goes against freedom of expression that this new administration is hoping for and must be stopped.

It was reported on Monday that several Perak PPBM members had lodged two police report after several ‘insulting’ postings against the PM appeared on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Meanwhile on Thursday, it was also reported that several unnamed NGOs had lodged a police report over insults against the PM. The police have since arrested the man and he is being investigated under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

The actions of Perak PPBM members, the NGOs concerned and the Langkawi police curb freedom of expression and goes against what this new administration stands for and the future that we are trying to build.

If anything, their actions have been a far greater insult to this Government’s ability to guarantee freedom of expression than any criticism against it.

Such reports leads to the creation of a culture of fear which this Government does not intend to promote.

Ever since he stepped away from Umno, Tun Mahathir has proven time and time again that he is not someone who is unable to handle criticism. He has been able to carry on working despite being the target of insults and criticism aimed at him for his role in the Citizen’s Declaration, forming the PPBM and being part of the Opposition.

The right to freedom of expression has been stated very clearly in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto and this should be a time where a person’s opinion is respected. The manifesto has also made it clear that this Government intends to abolish provisions in acts such as the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 that are oppressive.

We should not follow the previous administration’s disgraceful methods when dealing with criticism. This should be an era of new and inclusive politics for Malaysia.

However it is also important to remember that while freedom of expression allows for criticism against the Government, insults that are violent and aggressive, such as death threats should not be tolerated. Criticisms can be made but violence is unacceptable.

On another note, I would also like to echo YB Lim Kit Siang’s concerns over the PM’s announcement that he will be taking over the Education Ministry portfolio.

It is clearly stated in the PH manifesto that the Prime Minister should not hold additional ministerial posts.

I am glad to note that some Pakatan Harapan leaders have acknowledged their oversight and look forward to the Government remaining committed to restructuring the role and functions of the Prime Minister’s Department.

I would however like to congratulate the PM for the speed in which he is setting up his new cabinet, and for the strategic formation of the Council of Eminent Persons and the Institutional Reforms Committee. His commitment in dealing immediately with kleptocrats is both remarkable and commendable.

Maria Chin Abdullah
18 May 2018