Stupid Prank and Double Standards

By Kee Thuan Chye
23 July 2013

Alvin Tan Jye Yee and Vivian Lee May Ling, collectively known as Alvivi, are now in prison, awaiting trial. The judge denied them bail after they pleaded not guilty to three charges related to alleged sedition, causing enmity between people of different religions, and displaying pornographic pictures on their blog.

The charges – under the Sedition Act, the Film Censorship Act and the Penal Code – are pretty serious. If found guilty, they could go to jail for some years. Not a bright prospect for two supposedly smart people in their mid-20s.

But why were they not granted bail? What further harm could they inflict? Whom could they harm? How severe, really, is their offence? Even people charged with committing far worse offences, like rape, have been given bail.

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail says Alvivi were denied bail because of their tendency to post content on their blog that could potentially anger the public.

I think that’s being presumptuous. It is not backed up with any evidence. Besides, potentially angering the public is a poor excuse. And since we are engaging in making assumptions, I would hazard that it’s very unlikely that the duo would still opt to arouse public anger after having faced those serious charges. In fact, even before they were arrested, they had already apologised.

Is it more likely that bail was denied because the authorities want to punish the duo? And show an example to appease the conservatives? Is this the right thing to do?

Don’t get me wrong. I think Alvivi deserve to be charged for posting their Ramadhan bak kut teh greeting. (As for the pornography charge, why only now when they have been doing it long before?) What they allegedly did, even as a joke, was utterly insensitive and stupid. Not only because it put them in jeopardy, not only because they should not show disrespect – not only to Islam but to anyone and any religion – but also because their unthinking action has put non-Muslims in a negative light and caused tension between non-Muslims and their Muslim brethren.

Being Chinese themselves, Alvivi have also given the impression, especially to those who are quick to generalise, that the Chinese are arrogant. And they have given the Home Minister greater cause to justify his determination to retain the Sedition Act.

Already, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been quick to now say he supports Prime Minister Najib Razak’s proposed replacement, the National Harmony Act, because the latter “has promised that the spirit of the Sedition Act will remain”. To all intents and purposes, we may eventually get back the same Act but under a different name.

In fact, Zahid has added something ominous in his remark, “We support the move to strengthen the Sedition Act as even though it has a new name, its spirit remains.” He now talks of strengthening the Act. Given the present circumstances, it may not take much for the Cabinet to agree to that. Then what would the rakyat eventually get but stronger oppression?

In the first place, we shouldn’t even continue with the Sedition Act. Especially when it is being abused for selective prosecution.

Look at the people who have been charged with it lately. Pakatan Rakyat politicians Husam Musa, Tian Chua and Tamrin Ghafar, activists Haris Ibrahim and Hishamuddin Rais, student leaders Adam Adli and Safwan Anang – all opponents of the Barisan Nasional (BN)-led government.

But what has happened to the police investigations into the Umno-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia for its incendiary May 7 front-page article ‘Apa Lagi Cina Mahu?’ (What More Do the Chinese Want?)

What about pro-Umno blogger Papagomo who in the aftermath of the 13th general election (GE13) allegedly wrote about fighting the Opposition DAP even if it entailed bloodshed, and Shahrizad Mohd Diah who allegedly posted on Facebook a call to the Malays to rise up and kill all the Chinese for voting for the Opposition?

It’s been more than two weeks since investigations were launched. Why hasn’t any action been taken yet? Is it because it is all right for them to express what they did? On the other hand, why has action against the Government’s opponents and Alvivi been so swift?

What about the case involving the politician and vice-president of right-wing Malay rights group Perkasa, Zulkifli Noordin? Earlier this year, he made sacrilegious remarks about Hinduism. A video clip of it went viral on youtube.

Among other things, he questioned the validity of Hindu gods because they could not prevent their believers’ shops from being flooded, and he questioned how Hindu gods could be considered holy when the broken parts of their statues could be mended with plaster.

Are these remarks not insulting to Hindus? Would they not cause enmity between people of different religions? But why did Zulkifli get away with making such remarks? Is it because it is all right to insult Hinduism?

Well, only a few days ago, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar revealed that the police submitted its investigation report on Zulkifli’s alleged insult to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) but were told to drop the case.

The reason given by the AGC? Lack of evidence.

Why is there lack of evidence when the video clearly shows what Zulkifli said? He even apologised for it, which means he admitted performing the deed. Was the investigation stopped because at the time, Zulkifli was standing for elections at GE13 under the BN banner?

And what about the case involving politician and Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali? In January, he called on Muslims to seize and burn copies of Bibles which contained the word ‘Allah’ and other Arabic religious terms.

Is that not causing enmity between people of different religions?

Instead, we saw a minister jump to his defence a few days ago. Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan said what Ibrahim did was normal. It was to correct a printed error in the Bibles, and burning was a proper way of doing that because Muslims even burned copies of the Quran that carried misprints.

However, the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) has since pointed out that the appearance of ‘Allah’ in the Bibles was not an error.

“It is offensive and unacceptable for the honourable minister to attempt to justify the urging by Ibrahim Ali to burn our holy scripture by saying that our holy scripture contains errors in printing,” it said. “Such a suggestion is insensitive, insulting and inflammatory.”

Abdul Rahman also said that Ibrahim’s case could not be compared to Alvivi’s because the latter’s deeds were aimed at attacking another religion, and could threaten inter-faith harmony.

I doubt Alvivi’s silly prank was meant to be an attack on Islam. It was, as I said, a silly prank. Not excusable, for sure, but also not sinister. Mischievous, yes, but not malicious. They probably had no idea they would get into this kind of trouble before they did it.

Rahman says Alvivi’s action could threaten inter-faith harmony. Ibrahim’s doesn’t? Or does he really mean that one particular faith takes priority over the others?

And when he was asked by the media about Zulkifli’s case, he evaded it by not commenting.

The sad thing to come out of this is, ministers will say anything – regardless of whether it is logical or not – that serves the Government’s cause or what it decides is right. And then when they are rebutted, they will sometimes ignore it. Their main concern is that their target audience gets to hear what they say. The rest of the people can go to hell.

This is the underpinning of why the BN-led government appears to have two sets of laws for different sets of people. From what we have seen, it is crystal-clear which set of people Alvivi and some others belong to.

* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling books No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians and Ask for No Bullshit, Get Some More!

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 9:04 am

    Let me state it again, the two juvenile should have been locked up with those that bay for their blood and leave the rest of us alone with both their nonsense. The govt failure not to do so is a failure of leadership and wallowing in mediocrity.

    But speking of double standards or do I sense that double standards to new heights, started by Najib, is reaching new heights what with MB of Terengganu defending cronyism, super-ambitious Ahmad Dahlan claiming he is no bigot?

  2. #2 by pulau_sibu on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 10:40 am

    The couple should be locked up with Chua, and let Chua educate them.

  3. #3 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 12:11 pm

    The public’s perception is that the Judges and the Judiciary are very often seen to be very sympathetic and supportive of the government’s policies and line of thinking. Very often, the AG’s and his DPP’s stance is accepted and preferred over those of the other side even when their grounds look very flimsy to the common man.

    In the AVIVI cases, it looked like the judge has already pronounced them guilty and punished them on tenuous reasonings. Then there are accusations of double-standards being applied. How not for the public to feel disgusted with our ‘justice’ system?

  4. #4 by sotong on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 12:43 pm

    Ruffle the grass, you will see racist and extremist quickly raise their ugly heads.

    For their safety and protection, they are refused bail.

  5. #5 by tuahpekkong on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 - 6:07 pm

    The fact that this idiotic couple also posted pornographic pictures on their blog should be sufficient evidence that their offensive Ramadan bak kut teh greeting was only a silly prank. I don’t think they had the intention to offend the Muslims. However, Utusan Malaysia’s incendiary front-page headline “Apa Lagi Cina Mahu” coming so soon after the GE was clearly intended to stoke up racial sentiment and create racial distrust. Charging this stupid couple but exonerate Utusan Malaysia and a host of others smacks of hypocrisy and double standard.

  6. #6 by superwarrior on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 9:03 am

    after seeing all this …. one word is Malaysia always Boleh….

  7. #7 by on cheng on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 10:29 am

    They were not that smart to do such un call for things, but they were not granted bail is also a ???? puzzle
    while they can claim they can also fast and celebrate buka puasa, and with any food they fancy, but why put in internet??

  8. #8 by on cheng on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - 10:36 am

    It is actually not that serious fault, but those leaders (probably too free) make it so big as if the whole country may be in chaos simply becos of their silly act !
    In fact, those leaders (too free) are stirring up emotions and sentiments unnecessarily !! IF at all there is any troubles, it is caused by those who stir up!!
    Believe if not stirring up, most of Malaysian (Muslim or non Muslim) will be too busy to care about such matter !

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