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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Infamous blogger couple says Umno behind Facebook flap

Vivian and Alvin at the High Court, this morning. - The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, October 31, 2013.Vivian and Alvin at the High Court, this morning. - The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, October 31, 2013.Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee, the sex-blogger pair who evoked anger with their Ramadan posting on Facebook in July, told the High Court today that the furore which followed the posting was because Muslims were sensitive and emotional.
They also said that the prosecutor's contention that the picture of them having Bak-Kut-Teh (herbal pork soup) – which accompanied their Ramadan greeting – would threaten public order, was not true.
"This is only a perception. Several Umno politicians had also contributed to the furore for their political gain," the couple said in their affidavit to strike out one of the three charges against them at the High Court.
Tan and Lee, both 24, have been charged under Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will on grounds of religion.
They face two other charges under the Sedition Act and the Film Censorship Act.
At the hearing today, the couple's lawyer Chong Joo Tian argued that the section under which the couple was charged should not be used against non-Muslims, adding that Section 298A was not about public order.
Chong also said that charging the two under this section was clearly an infringement of their rights and freedom of expression enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
"Section 298A had no application on non-Muslims. It is purely a provision to control the precepts practised in the religion of Islam in Federal Territories. It is not for the purpose of restricting non-Muslims right to freedom of expression," he noted.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, however, argued there was nothing to say that Section 298A was limited to those practising Islam.
He added that the same section would also apply if a Muslim invited Hindus to consume beef during Deepavali.
"Section 298A does not say anything about the religion of Islam, it says religion fullstop, nothing more, nothing less. And it is my submission that the section is related to public order.
"A non-Muslim posts about Muslims and bak-kut-teh during Ramadan, if that is not related to public order, then I don't know what is," said Wan Shaharuddin.
He also argued against the duo's claims that Muslims were being emotional and sensitive over the issue and that the controversy was fueled by Umno.
"But 99% who lambasted their actions were from their own race, and I'm not being racist here," he pointed out.
Wan Shaharuddin said that the duo had admitted in their affidavit that they were the ones who uploaded the posting on Facebook.
In their affidavit in reply, the couple said their posting did not have anything to do with religion but was just a "Selamat Berbuka Puasa" greeting which was misintepreted as insulting Islam, adding that the allegation was baseless and illogical.
"The allegations only proved the attitude and prejudiced thinking towards other races in Malaysia, their lack of knowledge and lack of confidence in their own religion, as well as having the tendency to react emotionally without facts," the affidavit stated.
The couple said that bak-kut-teh did not neccessarily contain pork or even meat, as presumed by the respondents.
They added that since 2009, the government, through the Tourism Ministry, had introduced bak-kut-teh or "meat bone tea" as a promotional food item to be enjoyed by all Malaysians.
High Court judge Kamardin Hashim will deliver the decision on the couple's striking out appeal on Nov 14.

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