Govt not using Sedition Act to silence critics: Malaysian Home Minister

KUALA LUMPUR - Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has emphatically denied claims that the Government is "behaving like a hooligan" by apprehending people without concrete proof and tangible evidence under the Sedition Act 1948.

He said there was no truth to the allegations that the Government was using the Act to silence its critics to enable it to remain in power.

He said that despite the criticisms made against the actions taken on those who spread hate speeches, lies and slanders, Malaysians at large supported the Government "because they understood the danger if no action was taken".

Speaking at the Umno international forum on hyperconnectivity yesterday, Dr Ahmad Zahid said as Malaysia was a multi-racial and multi-religious country, the Government had to monitor Internet activities and be strict in stamping out any element deemed disastrous to nation-building.

In an interview later, Dr Ahmad Zahid re-assured non-Malays that the party would respect their ethnic and religious sensitivities during debates at the party's general assembly.

However, he said non-Muslims should reciprocate by showing a similar degree of respect towards the Malays who wanted their constitutional rights protected without jeopardising the rights of others.

"Umno's culture is to always respect others but we want others to also respect the sentiments of Umno members and leaders," he said.

His assurance followed expectation that there would be a major outpouring of anger by speakers representing the party's wings and states over what they see as attempts by certain quarters to question or deny the status of Islam, position of the Malay Rulers, the special privileges of the Malays and the national language.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said some people outside Umno had misconstrued the vocal sentiments of some Umno members and leaders as attempts to deny other races of their rights.

"The tolerance level of the Malays is in fact very high as we are willing to share power, the economic cake and on many other matters, all in the name of Malaysia," he said.

On critics who had accused him of being "overzealous on Malay rights", Dr Ahmad Zahid acknowledged that he was passionate about the subject.

"Yes, I am fighting for the Malays but I have never forgotten about the other ethnic groups. I have never sidelined their interests," he said.

He said Umno leaders throughout the years had always been consistent in reminding members that they should bear in mind what they said at the assembly.

"Views expressed by the speakers will not only be scrutinised by party members but by other Barisan Nasional component parties and all other Malaysians," he said.

"Therefore, we have always exercised a high level of care when we speak at our assemblies."