Govt wins appeal to reinstate ban on ‘Gay is OK!’ book

In a majority ruling, the Court of Appeal held that the book is likely to cause prejudice to public order, morality and public interest.

(FMT) – In a split decision, the Court of Appeal today ruled in favour of the government’s bid to reinstate a ban on the book, “Gay is OK! A Christian Perspective”.

Justice Wong Kian Kheong, who delivered the majority ruling, said the High Court judge erred in finding that the book was unlikely to cause prejudice to public order, morality and public interest.

Wong said the government’s concern about the book title and its content was also justified although it had been in circulation for seven years prior to the ban.

He added that the lower court judge had wrongly applied the principle of freedom of expression under Indian law to the case, pointing out that there was a difference in the wording of the applicable provision in the constitutions of both countries.

According to Wong, the High Court was also wrong to rely on the rights encompassed in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Our Parliament has not enacted any local law to enforce those principles,” he said.

Wong added that under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984, there was no necessity to give an aggrieved party the right to be heard and to give reasons for any ban.

“In any event, there were reasons provided in the gazette to ban the book,” he added.

Wong led a three-man bench with Justices Azizah Nawawi and M Gunalan.

While Azizah concurred with Wong to form the majority ruling, Gunalan dissented, saying that he agreed with the finding of the High Court judge that the applicant had a legitimate expectation in the matter.

Gunalan said the lower court was right in ruling that the ban on the book after seven years was irrational and a breach of natural justice.

The appellate court also awarded the government, which was represented by senior federal prosecutor Ahmad Hanir Hambly and federal counsel Sallehudin Ali, RM15,000 in costs.

Lawyer Edmund Bon, who represented Gerakbudaya publisher Chong Ton Sin and writer Ngeo Boon Lin said he would take instructions on whether to file an appeal in the Federal Court.

Chong and Ngeo had successfully got the High Court to quash the ban last year.

The home ministry had in 2020 banned the book on the grounds that it was deemed an undesirable publication. The book was published in 2013.

Sometime in February 2020, home ministry officers conducted random checks at the Gerakbudaya bookstore and found the books on display. They brought the book to the ministry’s office to review its contents.

After examination, then home minister Hamzah Zainudin said he was satisfied that the contents of the book were “likely to be prejudicial to morality”.

The government’s position was that the book promotes homosexuality and contravened the cultural beliefs of the country.