AG: New laws not best way

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PUTRAJAYA: New laws may not be the optimum solution to preserve social order and national harmony, says Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.

He said Malaysia had a tough battle ahead if it was to preserve social order and national harmony, and new laws might not be the optimum solution.

In his keynote address entitled “Current Challenges in Preserving Social Order and National Harmony — A Critical Note” at the Judicial and Legal Training Institute National Law Conference 2014 here yesterday, Abdul Gani said Malaysia should learn from the experiences of others.

Citing the experience of the United Kingdom, he said it was found that changing societal attitudes was a slow process and legislation was only effective if it was correctly implemented, while the Canadian experience had shown that multiculturalism encouraged racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural understanding.

Abdul Gani said at the end of the day, the choice to preserve “our own model” of social order and national harmony was in the hands of the Malaysian citizen.

“It will be also our choices that will show what we really are. We have to believe that in the long run, Malaysians will do the right thing,” he said.

Abdul Gani said the law was not the solution to all of society’s ills.

He cited eminent Australian ethicist and law profesor Charles Samford, who propounded that over-reliance on the law was unproductive.

“This is because law does not change and cannot control human behaviour,” he said.

Abdul Gani said based on media reports, it appeared that there was a nationalistic struggle about the future of the Sedition Act 1948, with the advocators for its wholesale repeal saying it was archaic, while those who fear its repeal would lead to social disorder or compromise the special position of the Malay rulers, argued for its retention.

Abdul Gani said, if there was consensus that contempt of court and criticism of the administration and executive no longer warranted being treated as having “seditious tendencies”, perhaps these could be dealt with under separate laws.

This, he said, would enable the Sedition Act 1948 to revert to dealing with serious threats which undermined the security, sovereignty and dignity of the nation, and the special position of the Malay rulers.

“It will thus allow sedition to be used as a zealously guarded ultimate safeguard for social order and national harmony,” he said. — Bernama

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on November 12, 2014.