KUALA LUMPUR ― A human rights group described today the imprisonment sentence on Vivian Lee for sedition as harsh, noting that no action was taken against others for considerably more racially charged speeches.
Lawyers for Liberty director Eric Paulsen said if the courts found punishment was warranted with Lee’s mock invitation on Facebook for Muslims to break fast with “bak kut teh”, then Malay rights advocates like #Merah169 leader Datuk Jamal Md Yunos or Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali should be prosecuted too.
“First and foremost, the Sedition Act should be abolished. No one in this day and age should be prosecuted for a mere comment without any element of incitement to violence or serious hate speech,” Paulsen told Malay Mail Online.
“Certainly the prosecution policies could have been more even handed, but we do not see the likes of Ibrahim Ali, Jamal Yunos, Ali Tinju etc prosecuted for much more serious speeches,” he added.
Both Jamal and Ibrahim had allegedly issued threats against the Chinese community. The former had led a rally critics said were ostensibly intended to intimidate minority communities, while the latter had suggested the torching of Christian bibles that contained the Arabic word Allah.
There were initially investigated by the police, but no action was taken against them.
Ali Tinju, whose real name is Mohd Ali Baharom, was charged with sedition for allegedly making a racially charged speech prior to the riots outside Low Yat Plaza last July, but his charges were later dropped on grounds of lack of evidence.
Earlier today, the Sessions Court here sentenced Lee, 27, to six months in prison after she was convicted of sedition over a mock greeting featuring the “bak kut teh” pork dish during the Muslim fasting month.
Paulsen described the sentence as excessive and argued that Lee should not be criminalised over a comment, no matter how offensive it may be.
“On the sentence, a custodial sentence seems excessive as the posting, however distasteful, is not really criminal in nature”.
Sessions Court judge Abdul Rashid Daud, in justifying the sentence, said the matter involved the sensitivities of the Muslim community and he was seeking a deterrent with the prison term.
Lee is appealing the sentence and the Sessions Court agreed to allow a stay. But it increased the bail from RM10,000 to RM20,000 and ruled that her passport remain in the court’s possession.
The picture of Lee together with then boyfriend Alvin Tan Jye Yee, which was posted on Facebook on July 11, 2013, carried the words “Selamat Berbuka Puasa (with Bak Kut Teh…fragrant, delicious and appetising)” and the halal logo.