By Ida Lim
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 ― Umno Youth was today forced to file a police report on a controversial anti-Christianity poster on Facebook that was uploaded on a webpage that shares the same name as the movement’s official site but which it says is “unauthorised.”
This may become a test case for the newly-enforced Section 114A of the Evidence Act, a legal clause that, among others, presumes that the named owner of a website is the publisher of the statement.
The poster, which was uploaded last Saturday and taken down the same day, appeared to suggest that votes for federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) will cause Islam to be replaced by Christianity as the country’s official religion.
It had read: “Jika anda setuju untuk jadikan KRISTIAN sebagai agama rasmi persekutuan Malaysia, teruskan sokongan anda kepada Pakatan Rakyat. (If you agree to make CHRISTIANITY the official religion of the federation of Malaysia, continue supporting Pakatan Rakyat.) ‘God bless you my son’.”
“It’s seditious because Islam is the official religion of Malaysia,” Ibdilillah Ishak, the head of Umno Youth Taman Tun Dr Ismail, told reporters after making the police report on behalf of the party’s youth wing.
When asked to clarify which portions of the post was deemed “seditious”, he identified the questioning of Islam’s position that is “already enshrined” in the Federal Constitution.
“We don’t support this kind of statement.”
He said the page carrying the poster is “not the official Facebook page of Pemuda Umno (Umno Youth)”.
Umno Youth maintains an authorised fan page on the social network, he added, which also used the same name as the offending page.
“We are taking action against it because they use our institution’s name so that is not right,” said Ibdilillah, who is also the Barisan Nasional (BN) Youth executive secretary.
He said Umno Youth has not identified the culprit, and will “let the police investigate for us.”
He said the youth wing was not “pinpointing the opposition”, but added that the matter may have been the work of imposters.
Yesterday, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin wrote on microblogging site Twitter: “Update: We have narrowed down the admin of the unsanctioned Pemuda Umno FB page w/ offensive post. We will lodge a police report tomorrow.”
But the police report that Ibdilillah lodged today did not name any person, contrary to Khairy’s tweet.
Asked if Umno Youth has evidence to show it was not the administrator of the Facebook page that had carried the poster, Ibdilillah said: “We only have the screenshot (of the poster).”
“Let the police handle the guilty and not guilty...” he said, when asked whether Section 114A of the Evidence Act would apply in this instance.
Critics and lawmakers from both sides of the political divide are lobbying for the law that could curb Internet freedom to be repealed after it came into force last month.
The amendment to the Evidence Act sparked an uproar in April when it was passed as it introduces a presumption of publication of online content on the publisher or registered owner of a network, and in essence shifts the burden of proof onto the accused.
Khairy and Higher Education Deputy Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah had added their voices to the call to repeal the legal clause, joining opposition lawmakers already clamouring for the same.
Yesterday, PKR’s Nurul Izzah Anwar said she awaited “the authorities’ speedy action to charge the person held responsible for any posts on the Umno Youth FB Page”, noting that Section 114A would be the relevant law.
The prime minister had on Twitter last week said his Cabinet would review the law after several organisations ― including the Malaysian Bar ― chose to black out their websites to signal their opposition to the law.
A day later, however, Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim announced the law will stay.