By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 — Putrajaya has abandoned plans for a Race Relations Act, Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz has confirmed, saying current laws could adequately regulate racial extremism.
The de facto law minister pointed out yesterday that other preventive laws like the Sedition Act and the Criminal Procedure Code already provide for occurrences that include offensive behaviour from one individual to another that could affect race relations.
“I think we can manage our race relations well. Anyway, an offence related to race would be things like seditious speech and this is covered by the Sedition Act.
“On offences like assault, it is covered by the CPC so we do not need a specific race relations law — all (offences) are covered,” he told reporters when approached at his office in Parliament.
“Whatever offences you may think may affect race relations have been covered.”
The minister had said last December that the government would table a Race Relations Bill during the current parliamentary session to regulate interracial interaction and foster mutual respect.
Nazri had told Sin Chew Daily in an interview that the proposed law, to be used to combat racial extremism, was among one of two replacement laws for the repealed Internal Security Act (ISA).
The government tabled yesterday the Security Offences (Special Measures) Bill as a replacement to the ISA, removing the government’s option to indefinitely detain individuals without trial and providing a maximum detention of 28 days for the purpose of investigation.
Under the ISA, an individual believed to have committed a security offence can be detained for investigation for up to 60 days before being recommended for a further two-year detention without trial, on orders from the home minister.
Nazri said that the newly-proposed Bill would be the sole piece of legislation to replace the ISA, saying he was not aware of the “hate laws” that Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had said was in the pipeline.
“I’ve not seen that yet,” Nazri said.
Speaking on the new Bill, the veteran politician said it was timely as the current political and social scenario is Malaysia was vastly different to what it was in 1960 when the ISA was passed.
He said that society has matured and incidents that would have caused racial riots in the past now no longer trigger such acts from citizens.
“Malaysians are more tolerant. In fact, I’d like to say it’s not question of being tolerant, it’s accepting that we do have differences but it doesn’t mean that we should be divisive.
“It should unite us more because we have not only accepted each others’ differences but we are one and because of all this, that is the reason why the government decided now to repeal the ISA,” he said.
Nazri, however, stressed on the need for the new Act specifically to handle offences deemed a threat to national security or terrorism, adding that such provisions must be provided for as a security measure.
He said it was easier to enact a fresh law instead of suggest amendments to existing preventive laws to help specifically touch on these offences.
“It is best to have one Act that is exhaustive... and then we don’t have a law at the moment that is related specifically to terrorism,” he said.