Archive for August 11th, 2008

Bar Council to face the music?

According to a Bernama report, the Home Ministry has been given a free hand by Prime Minister Abdullah to decide on what action, if at all, to take against the Bar Council for having organised the controversial ‘Conversion to Islam’ forum last Saturday. And the Ministry may also consider employing the draconian ISA and Sedition Act for this purpose.

Is this ringing the knell of future dialogues — given that there have also been calls made by certain individuals, NGOs and political parties from both sides of the political divide to invoke the two pieces of legislation against promoters of such initiatives? (In a sense, these people collectively are lending legitimacy to the very laws that some of them had questioned in recent past.)

Incidentally, there was no comment at all from Abdullah about the street protest that accompanied the forum in Kuala Lumpur.

Could this possibly be indicative of an eventual willingness on the part of the government to recognise that street protest is part of democracy and ‘our culture’ — even though, in this case, it could be aggressive or unruly to a certain extent?

Below is an extract of that Bernama report:

PUTRAJAYA, Aug 11 (BERNAMA) — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Monday that he would leave it to the Home Ministry to decide whether to take action against the Bar Council including using the Internal Security Act and Sedition Act for organising the “Conversion to Islam” forum in the federal capital on Saturday which caused a tense situation to arise.

“I leave it to the Home Ministry to study what happened, and if there is concrete evidence, the ministry will decide on what action to take,” he said when asked about calls by various quarters for the government to invoke the acts against the Bar Council.

Speaking to reporters after chairing the inaugural meeting of the National Economic Council at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here, Abdullah said he hoped such forums would not be organised in future.

“Issues concerning religion are very sensitive. Matters (on religion) are already spelt out… there is no need for discussions,” he said, adding that between having and not having them, it was better to opt for the latter.