KUALA LUMPUR – The Malaysian police have warned social media users against posting provocative content that could threaten public safety and order, after reports of online posts that reference racial riots and unrest following Saturday’s general election.
Police chief Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said the police have detected social media users uploading content with racial and religious sentiments, as well as content that insulted the royal institution.
“The police would like to remind social media users to refrain from misusing the platform by spreading provocative content that could alarm the public,” he said in a statement on Monday night.
Tan Sri Acryl Sani said the authorities can take action against those who attempt to threaten public safety and order, under the Communications and Multimedia Act, the Sedition Act and the Penal Code.
Mr Acryl Sani’s statement comes amid posts in TikTok warning about a possible repeat of the May 13, 1969 racial riots as various coalitions try to cobble together an alliance to govern Malaysia ahead of the 2pm Tuesday deadline from the palace.
Most of the posts were directed at supporters of Pakatan Harapan (PH), as reports emerged that the multiracial opposition coalition could collaborate with Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) to form a government.
PH won the highest number of parliamentary seats, but its 82 wins fell short of the simple majority needed to form a government. A pact with BN, which won 30 seats, would help it meet the required threshold of 112 seats. But BN on Tuesday said it won’t support either PH or the rival Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition that won 73 seats.
Many of the videos alleged – falsely – that PH ally Democratic Action Party (DAP) would dominate the administration if PH formed the federal government.
The posts also carried anti-Chinese messages, with some questioning those in the Malay community who voted for the DAP, suggesting that no Muslim would vote for the Chinese-majority party.
Among the hashtags used for the posts were those affiliated to the Malay-based PN coalition, reported news portal Malay Mail.
PN is also attempting to form a government and has claimed that it has the numbers to do so. It said it has submitted to the palace statutory declarations from a majority of MPs supporting PN chief Muhyiddin Yassin as its prime minister candidate.
Malaysia’s communications regulator, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), said it will work with the police to jointly take legal action against those who post provocative content, based on complaints lodged by the public.
The move is to protect harmony and public interest, MCMC said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that any form of spreading of provocative content is an offence under the Communications and Multimedia Act.
Those found guilty of doing so can be jailed for up to a year, fined a maximum of RM50,000 (S$15,000), or both.
Meanwhile, PH chairman Anwar Ibrahim said he supports efforts by the police to quell any attempts to cause disharmony in the country.
He wrote on Facebook that he is worried that a number of “desperate and selfish parties” are “fanning the flames of racist sentiment and rhetoric at a crucial time like this”.
“Efforts and endeavours to establish a government that is responsible and stable should not end in chaos because the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Orang Asli, Sabah and Sarawak tribes are part of the brotherhood of humanity and Malaysians that love peace,” he said in the post.
DAP and its rival, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), urged all quarters to remain calm.
“DAP will always adhere to the Rukun Negara (National Principles) and will defend the Federal Constitution,” said secretary-general Anthony Loke, in calling the party’s members to maintain public order and racial harmony at all times.
“The peace and harmony among our society must be preserved in celebrating the increasingly fertile democratic process in our country.”
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang called on everyone to stop any provocations that could affect the country’s harmony, adding that all quarters should uphold the Constitution, respect the integrity of the law and preserve public order.
He also warned people not to take advantage of the situation by trying to stir up a hornet’s nest.