Sin Chew Daily
The book Rebirth, Reformasi, Resistance and Hope in New Malaysia, a collection of articles by local and foreign writers on the historical 2018 general elections, has hit a snag for its cover picture said to be insulting the country's coat of arms.
The police have opened a file to probe the incident after receiving some ten reports from the public, while the home ministry views this incident very seriously and says it will not tolerate nor compromise with any irresponsible and unpatriotic act.
The publisher has admitted lack of sensitivity when designing the front cover although it says it had no intention of causing insult to the national emblem. It has since apologized to the public. Nevertheless, many netizens do not accept the apology, arguing that it lacks sincerity and has the motive of diverting the focus.
From what we understand, the cover photo came from an oil painting that went on public exhibition years ago without much controversy back then. The raising of this issue at this juncture actually has little direct correlation to the current political situation in the country.
Those who have lodged the police reports have done so because they feel offended that the coat of arms, a symbol of national sovereignty, has been rudely modified. Any act showing disrespect for the national symbol or national flag is deemed a serious offense.
If the publisher were a little more cautious, such incident could have been avoided. The publisher, writer and editor should pick up a lesson from this incident. Anyway, the publisher says it will cooperate in the investigation and will bear all the consequences, including possible ban and prosecution.
Malaysians have learned about our national coat of arms, the national anthem and Rukunegara from the textbooks since young, but more importantly we need to understand the deeper meanings of them. These national symbols encapsulate the country's nation-building philosophies as well as the connotations of Bangsa Malaysia and our common values, giving us a deep sense of pride to be Malaysians wherever we are in this world, and feel the lofty Malaysian spirit anytime.
Unfortunately we have repeatedly seen irresponsible incidents that display gross disrespect for our national symbols, showing that many still do not understand or appreciate the significance of our national symbols. It is unwise for anyone to commit such mistakes on the pretext of freedom of expression.
While politically speaking Malaysians can have their own divergent positions, viewpoints and affiliations, where the national coat of arms, national anthem and the national flag are concerned, all Malaysians are unitary and our status as Malaysian citizens shall prevail over our political affiliations.
Under the democratic spirit, all Malaysians can criticize and supervise the government, but humiliating the national symbols causing division in the country must never be tolerated or compromised.
Tampering with the coat of arms, modifying the lyrics of the national anthem and hanging the national flag upside down, be it done intentionally or out of carelessness or lack of sensitivity, have violated the law and are unpatriotic.
Additionally, cases of people irresponsibly posting online comments humiliating the King, religion or race, have been reported every now and then. It is sad that many people still do not appreciate our harmonious multicultural society which we all have worked so hard to build.
Such incidents still keep happening despite the fact the country has been independent for more than 60 years. It is imperative that the authorities enforce the law strictly in order to serve as a stern warning for future offenders.
But more importantly we need to reinforce civic education to enhance the civic-mindedness of new generation Malaysians, in particular, to mold more entrenched national identity and patriotism.