KUALA LUMPUR - The decision to retain and strengthen the Sedition Act 1948 is to ensure that national security and solidarity is not compromised, said Umno leaders.
Party vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the Home Minister, said that of late, many sensitive issues had been raised, especially related to religion and calls for the secession of Sabah and Sarawak from Malaysia.
"This cannot be allowed to continue," he said after the opening of Umno general assembly yesterday.
Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had earlier announced that the Sedition Act would not only remain, but would also be strengthened to address problems that cropped up recently.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said the diversity and the political mould of the country did not allow for limitless freedom as it needs to take into account the sensitivities of the various races and religions.
"The Prime Minister is realistic in knowing that the political realities must be in line with the needs, security and well-being of all Malaysians."
"People from other religions cannot insult Islam and at the same time, neither can Muslims insult others."
"In order for our religion to be respected, we must respect other religions," said Dr Ahmad Zahid in a joint press conference with his fellow Umno vice-presidents yesterday.
All three vice-presidents - Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Dr Ahmad Zahid - welcomed the announcement by Najib in retaining the Sedition Act as well as strengthening it by adding two new provisions that will safeguard the sanctity of religions and prevent incitement of secession.
Mohd Shafie, who is a Sabah leader, said it was vital to ensure that action against groups calling for secession of Sabah and Sarawak was taken for the benefit of the nation.
He said if left unchecked, certain quarters would take advantage and cause chaos.
Mohd Shafie also said the decision to retain the Sedition Act was not only for the benefit of Malays but Malaysians as a whole.
On criticism that it was regressive to retain the Act, Hishammuddin said it was pointless to be progressive if it would only invite chaos.
"Look at what has happened to countries like Tunisia and the Middle East, look at what has happened there," said Hishammuddin.