Democracy and free speech have its limits, says Mahathir

(MMO) – The government respects freedom of speech, but will not tolerate abusers who threaten public peace and order, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today as Parliament debates the violence that erupted this week at a Hindu temple in Selangor.

The prime minister said democracy has its limits and everyone must understand and know there will be repercussions for those who cross the line.

“The government has no intention to restrict freedom of speech but if what is voiced out are lies and it threatens public order, we will not hesitate to take action.

“The government has promised not to curtail the freedom in news reporting and communications but this freedom must be used responsibly and not to heat up a situation that could lead to the disruption of racial unity and harmony,” Dr Mahathir said in the Dewan Rakyat.

He also reminded politicians, NGO leaders and related stakeholders not to take advantage of the situation, adding that now is not the time to start laying blame.

Dr Mahathir also urged all parties not to issue any provocative statements that could cause upset.

The PM added that no one was above the law or free to create chaos and anxiety among the public.

“The freedom of speech does not mean anyone can say things that provoke the sensitivities of others. If there are those who have broken the law for their selfish needs, then the government will carry out the principle of the rule of law and legal action.

“The government will not compromise and will act according to the law to ensure national peace and harmony is not disrupted by anyone,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also reiterated that the incident at the temple was criminal in nature and not in any way a racial or religious issue.

Action will also be taken against those found to be directly involved or complicit in the temple incident including the mastermind behind the fracas and those taking advantage of the situation.

He said the government cannot take such incidents lightly as they could threaten harmony in the country.

“I also ask the public to remain calm and avoid being involved in activities that could be the platform for instigation and sedition. The government will take firm action against anyone trying to provoke or challenge the laws of the country.

“I have been informed that the police are actively hunting down those involved in the riot and who have injured a member of the Fire Department and other security personnel in the incident. They will face the strong arm of the law,” said Dr Mahathir.