Ahmad Ismail to face sedition charge?

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 – The caustic words Umno warlord Datuk Ahmad Ismail uttered at a political rally in Permatang Pauh in August have come back to haunt him.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the police have completed their probe into his comments about Malaysians of Chinese origin and the veteran politician is likely to be charged with sedition.

This move is going to be applauded by many Malaysians who were upset at his boorish behaviour in the wake of that episode but will upset Umno members who believe that his three-year suspension from all positions in the party was sufficient punishment.

His court date could also reignite the debate on race and religion in the country, and polarise the country further.

Ahmad became the talk of the country when he allegedly said that Chinese were immigrants and squatters and therefore could not expect to have equal rights as the Malays.

His comments were reported in Sin Chew Daily and sparked off a furious debate on the position of non-Malays in the country.

It led to several component parties in the Barisan Nasional calling for Ahmad to be disciplined.

Ahmad remained unrepentant and warned Chinese not to “try the patience” of the Malays.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak tried to calm the tense situation by apologising on Ahmad’s behalf to the Chinese.

In September, the Umno Supreme Council suspended Ahmad from all party positions for three years.

But that was not the end of the drama.

The Sin Chew journalist who reported Ahmad's allegedly seditious comments was detained under the Internal Security Act. The government defended the move by saying that it was for the protection of the reporter.

Following public outcry, she was released after 18 hours in the lock-up.

This detention only served to frame the episode in them versus us terms, with several commentators wondering why the police were quick to act against the messenger and not the individual who uttered the allegedly seditious comments.

Those found guilty of sedition in Malaysia can be jailed up to three years, face a RM5,000 fine or both. The law classifies speech or comments as seditious if it, among others, promotes ill feeling between the races.