They say bad publicity is good publicity. The Law and Policy Committee of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) must be hoping there is some truth in this. Since they drafted and presented the "Harmony Bills" to replace the Sedition Act 1948, the NUCC working committee has been slapped by a barrage of highly-publicised criticisms.
The detractors, ranging from former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad and Malay/Muslim pressure groups like Perkasa, have been loud in their censure of the Bills which they say are against Islam and challenge the position of Malay Muslims in the country.
Tun Dr Mahathir, for one, had said that repealing the Sedition Act and enforcing the proposed Bills would cause chaos.
Taking the criticisms in his stride, Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusuf Rawa, the Law and Policy Committee chair, welcomes the feedback.
"There is some room for improvement and the cause is open for debate. Criticisms are normal but I think they are mainly due to fear, because some groups are worried about how the Bills would look for them and how they will affect everything that is the basis or the raison d'etre of the country, like the Rulers, Malay position and status of Islam," he says.
"We want to stress that these laws will not derogate the fundamental provisions enshrined in the constitution."
Consisting of the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill, the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Bill, and the Racial and Religious Hate Crimes Bill, the harmony bills are part of a blueprint to strengthen national unity and integration that the NUCC was mandated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to prepare.
The NUCC will meet soon to deliberate on the public feedback received on the Bills before finalising the draft and submitting it to the Cabinet for consideration.
At a meeting with the NUCC last week, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail expressed interest to work with the council to draft the final Bills if the Cabinet accepts the submission.
NUCC chairman Tan Sri Samsuddin Osman believes public consultation is a crucial aspect in the formulation of laws and policies "to build a better Malaysia for all Malaysians."