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Malaysian PM accepts students' apologies for disrespect
Publication Date : 07-09-2012
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has responded to the disrespectful actions of several students towards him at a demonstration last week, accepting their apologies but maintaining that those involved have to face the law.
"There is no problem. I accept anybody's apology but the principle is, the process of the law cannot be compromised and must proceed," he told reporters yesterday.
Datuk Seri Najib's comment, his first response to an incident which has made news all this week, is likely to continue fuelling the debate over the contentious issue, which has seen both the students and the authorities rapped for their actions.
The students allegedly trampled on pictures of Najib, his wife Rosmah Mansor and Election Commission chairman Abdul Aziz Yusof at a large rally held on August 30, on the eve of Malaysia's Independence Day.
One student was photographed flashing his buttocks at the pictures.
The Umno-owned Malay newspaper Utusan Malaysia slammed them as "rude" and rally organisers distanced themselves, saying "this was not the way to behave".
Yesterday, freelance model Ong Sing Yee, 19, told reporters that she was sorry for stepping on a picture of Najib. Her lawyer said she did so unintentionally.
Ong gave herself up to the police on Wednesday, a day after the police detained the 19-year-old student who allegedly flashed his buttocks at the pictures.
The father of this student also apologised to Najib, saying "he did not know what got into" his son.
The police said those involved are being probed for sedition, being a public nuisance and gross indecency. They were seeking at least 13 people allegedly involved.
But the police themselves have come under fire for overreacting to the incident, which many Malaysians see as disrespectful but not unlawful.
Others have criticised the authorities for using the Sedition Act to investigate the offenders, when Najib had already promised to repeal the law as part of his political reforms.
"The police have used this law in bad faith," someone named Jimmy Ng wrote on the forum of a news website.
Opposition politicians also cried double standards. Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Guan Eng pointed out that police did nothing when protesters burned his portrait and performed "funeral rites" for him outside his home.
"Clearly BN (Barisan Nasional) practises selective prosecution," he said.
The government appears determined to press for further action.
Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday said he wanted stern action to be taken against those who stepped on the pictures, as well as those responsible for a separate incident of raising a "new flag" - purportedly to replace Malaysia's national flag - on that same night.
He said the acts were "against our culture and upbringing" and "aimed at sowing hatred for the country leaders".
"A report will be submitted to the Attorney-General for further action. If no charge can be made, we want to know why."