MCA Religious Harmony Bureau Chairman, Dato’ Sri Ti Lian Ker, is the most outspoken leader of MCA. Although his portfolio covers only “Religious Harmony”, he seems to know almost anything on earth, ever willing to give statement after statement concerning Malaysian politics. In his efforts to outdo other MCA and even other Chinese party leaders, he does not care even if he has to lie.
In one of his lies, published by The Rakyat Post on 5 October 2014, he said that vernacular schools are fundamentally guaranteed and provided for under the Federal Constitution and publicly questioning with the intention of abolishing them would be seditious. He cited the case of Mark Koding who was allegedly convicted for sedition in 1982 after calling for them to be abolished in 1978.
Such a blatant lie coming from someone who holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) from Universiti Malaya and who is a Senior Partner of Messrs Wong, Law & Ti is very outrageous. It is more outrageous when it was The Star, a newspaper owned by MCA itself, which published the statement to the contrary from a renowned constitutional law expert, Dato’ Emeritus Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi.
In an interview published by The Star much earlier, on 5 May 2013, Shad very knowledgeably and confidently said: “The fact that you have in this country Chinese and Tamil schools too is remarkable.
The Chinese and Tamil schools are actually not protected under the Constitution… I’ve heard Chinese say that Chinese education is non-negotiable. I am fascinated by that. It’s not in the Constitution”.
If Ti reads the case of Mark Koding, it is crystal clear that the Federal Court decided that he was not guilty of sedition when he advocated for the closure of Tamil or Chinese schools but he was guilty when he suggested for Article 152 of the Constitution to be amended whereas the ban on questioning the existence of this article is made absolute by paragraph (c) of section 3(2) of the Sedition Act.
In another of his statement, dated 20 April 2016, Ti daringly tried to make himself noticeable to all by questioning the Constitution itself. He proclaimed: “The racism is inherently there (in the country), accentuated by a Federal Constitution that is coloured with provisions for race and religion. This is made worse by institutions and administrations that are tainted with racial and religious sentiments.”
Added him in the statement entitled “Don’t Blame Racism Solely On Politicians And Communal Political Parties”: “If the nation is serious about overcoming racism etc, we need to educate our people on the negativity of racism and come a day when we are there – a matured and democratic nation – we can consider amending or ratifying our Constitution to free ourselves of racism.”
If he really studied law, he must have known that the ban on questioning the existence of Article 153 of the Constitution is also made absolute by paragraph (c) of section 3(2) of the Sedition Act.
However, in his quest to be popular among the Chinese, he seemed to ignore this, even possibly hoping for action to be taken against him so that he will stand out as a hero for his community.
But that was not to be so. Chief Executive of the Centre for Human Rights Research (CENTRHA), Azril Mohd Amin, and Chief Executive of Young Professionals (YP), Faidhur Rahman Abdul Hadi, did give a press statement explaining how Ti “can reasonably be said to have uttered words that amount to a seditious tendency under the Sedition Act 1948”. Despite this, no action was taken against him.
In his latest statement, dated 9 January 2017, he picked up a fight with Tourism Minister cums former Law Minister, Dato’ Sri Nazri Aziz, over PAS’ plan to hold rally on the proposed amendments to the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 which Ti opposed but Nazri okayed. According to Ti, this rally is grounded on religion and can undermine peaceful co-existence among Malaysians.
According to Ti, “At no time is MCA against Islam”. He however claimed that, “Any legislations or long term intentions which intend to derail the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the law, MCA will oppose them” and “the proposed changes to the Syariah Court Bill is a backdoor towards enforcing state hudud enactments and ultimately religious based criminal codes unto all Malaysians”.
Added Ti: “Nazri, who as both a lawyer and a lawmaker himself should know better that the proposed tweaks to the Syariah Court Bill which formally enables implementation of state hudud enactments will reduce the testimony weightage of non-Muslims and women including Muslim women, thereby contravening Article 8 of the Federal Constitution which ensures equality before the law.”
On the final notes, Ti also claimed that “We are not objecting against PAS’ right to hold a gathering.” He then reiterated that “We are objecting against the subject matter of the gathering, which we believe can cause division in the nation. Furthermore, we are merely challenging the legality and constitutionality of the move to allow PAS hudud to be enforceable via an amendment to Act 355.”
We fully agree with Nazri’s quick reply to this statement of Ti that “This Ti is empty up there. If he doesn’t know the law, then don’t speak.” Indeed there is nothing in the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 that prohibits PAS or anyone else from holding rally grounded on religion. If Ti wants to challenge the legality and constitutionality of anything, he must know that the court is the place for him to go.
The proposed amendments to the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 are perfectly legal and constitutional, in line with Article 3(1) of the Constitution which states that “Islam is the religion of the Federation”. Ti, being a non-Muslim, better shuts his mouth off as the proposed amendments, as was told now and again by even the Prime Minister himself, do not in any way affect non-Muslims.
We know that Ti is desperate to revive his political career after he, as he himself put it, “died a premature political death”, not being nominated to contest again after winning the seat of N14 Indera Mahkota for two terms (1995 and 1999) and the seat of N14 Teruntum for one term (2004). We at the same time warn him to stop all of his cheap tricks to gain publicity lest he will really get into trouble.
*Dr Kamarul Zaman Haji Yusoff is the Director of Malaysian Political Research Institute (MAPAN) at Law College, Government and International Relations (COLGIS), Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Sintok, Kedah.