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Friday, November 27, 2015

Freedom of speech is not freedom to destroy


Salleh Said Keruak 

There were some Umno divisions that wanted the party to censure Muhyiddin Yassin and Shafie Apdal for their actions that could tantamount to disrupting party unity. No doubt there are some who say Umno practices freedom of speech and therefore leaders and members must be allowed to speak their mind. However, there is a difference between freedom of speech and freedom to destroy and some divisions felt that this line had been crossed. 

It must be noted that amongst the most liberal countries in Europe that practice freedom of speech they also set limits to this freedom. You are not allowed to deny the holocaust or to display Nazi symbols in France or Germany as this would be considered as stepping over the boundary of your freedom. And in Britain if you break party ranks you would be expected to resign, which they would normally do in the spirit of standing by what you say. 

Anyway, the party did not take action against Muhyiddin and Shafie although there were demands from some of the divisions to do so. The Umno Supreme Council, however, decided to allow the heads of the various wings to open their meetings, as what they had asked for. 

There are some critics who say that this is a break from party tradition. That may be so but there are many party traditions that are being broken over this last one year. One party tradition that is being broken is accusing the party president of stealing RM42 billion when this is not so. Trying to bring down the party president through fabricated allegations affects the entire party and risks Umno getting defeated in the general election and this is certainly not in line with party tradition. 

If we wish to talk about maintaining party tradition and not breaking away from party tradition then we have to look at it in total and not take it piecemeal based on what suits us. The tradition of the deputy president declaring the opening of the meeting of the wings is just that, a tradition. It is merely a privilege given to the deputy. It is not a right. And while rights cannot be taken away from someone, privileges need to be earned. And privileges can be lost if they are abused. That is how it works. 

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