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Take criticism along with praise, lawyer tells PM

Rafique Rashid says the prime minister should concentrate on his work instead of entertaining criticism against him.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim unveils his Cabinet line-up at Perdana Putra in Putrajaya on Dec 2.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim unveils his Cabinet line-up at Perdana Putra in Putrajaya on Dec 2.

A senior lawyer has drawn comparisons between Anwar Ibrahim's use of the police against his detractors after his appointment as prime minister and the behaviour of former leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad in this regard. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Rafique Rashid said Mahathir, who was dubbed "Maha Firaun" during his first tenure as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, had asked the police not to arrest those who hurled insults at him after he was appointed to the top office for a second time in 2018. 

The veteran leader had said this after several police reports were made against a man accused of "excessively insulting Mahathir and the religion of Islam". 

Rafique, a member of Mahathir's Pejuang bloc, said politicians as public figures should be ready to receive criticism alongside praise, slamming the government's request for the police to act against Anwar's detractors.

"There is a clear difference between these two figures," he said. 

"Anwar hasn't been in power a week yet and he's already made a police report."

If the PKR president truly felt that his reputation had been damaged by the criticism against him, Rafique added, he should report the matter to the police himself without going through a third party. 

"If he really wants to make a police report, why doesn't he do it himself?" he said. 

"Why should he have to use flunkeys or his party in order to act?"

Lawyers group Lawyers for Liberty had also criticised Anwar, saying the PH chairman should file a defamation suit in a civil court if he felt aggrieved. 

Rafique agreed with the suggestion, calling it a more orderly method in terms of the law. 

He gave the example of the defamation suit brought by former deputy minister Chew Mei Fun against DAP leaders Tony Pua and Yeo Bee Yin over the alleged approval of the sale of land at a low price to MCA. 

Former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob meanwhile had sued Umno Supreme Council member Lokman Adam for defamation with malicious intent regarding a video uploaded to social media. 

"This is proof that the civil process can also allow us justice in court," Rafique said. 

"Using the police is like saying that the prime minister or anyone in the government cannot be criticised at all." 

Adding that everyone had the right to defend themselves and their reputations, Rafique nevertheless said that this should not cause the police or the courts to postpone more important cases in order to handle the reports and defamation suits of certain politicians. 

"Keep a low profile and do your work," he said. "In the end, the people will judge you based on your work. 

"If you're a politician today, will you spend every day suing people or going to the police station? Surely not. Just ignore criticism like this." 

PH communications director Fahmi Fadzil said on Nov 28 that Anwar had directed the police to act against those who spread slander against him. 

"Anwar does not intend to take action against public criticism of him such as wearing ‘capal’ (sandals) (when clocking into the Prime Minister's Office).

"But we draw the line against elements of slander such as accusing Anwar of being an agent of Israel and so on... he (the prime minister) has asked the police to take action," he said.

The police later said that an investigation had been launched into Baling MP Hassan Saad for allegedly labelling Anwar as an agent of Israel.

They had earlier said that PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang was being investigated for remarks against the prime minister, under laws pertaining to criminal insult as well as online content.