KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Nine individuals, including Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department P. Waytha Moorthy, will be called to give statements over recent comments that have allegedly sparked racial tensions.
The individuals were named by Deputy Inspector-General of Police Noor Rashid Ibrahim at a news conference on Friday (Nov 23) at the police headquarters in Bukit Aman.
"The police view the recent statements issued by various parties that touched on religious and racial sentiments very seriously. The unrest is evident in over 160 police reports lodged recently.
"The police value the right of free speech. However, that right should be practised with responsibility and within the confines of the law. The police will not hesitate to take action to ensure public safety and national security is maintained," he said.
Zahid, the former deputy prime minister and home minister, was named in one of the police reports lodged.
Tensions have risen in Malaysia in recent weeks over an earlier government plan to ratify a United Nations human rights treaty, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
The plan angered Malay and Muslim groups who fear their rights would be eroded by the ratification.
The Mahathir Mohamad government on Friday issued a statement to say the government will not be ratifying ICERD after all.
Zahid, speaking at a joint rally over ICERD in Perak comprising Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) members, told the crowd: "Don't wait until the Malays run amok. But if our warning goes unheeded, Umno and PAS will unite.
"This is not a mere warning; don't play if you don't want the amok to happen." His remarks were widely reported by the media.
Mr Waytha got snared in the controversy after his opponents saw him as pushing for the signing of ICERD.
Other individuals named by Tan Sri Noor were mostly individuals linked to the controversy over the UN treaty too.
They included a Malay rights group president Azwanddin Hamzah Ariffin Abu Bakar and blogger Ragvinder Singh Jess.
Mr Noor said investigation papers have been opened under several sections of the Penal Code for provoking breach of peace, statements conducting public mischief and criminal intimidation.
On a proposed rally in Kuala Lumpur by Umno and PAS on Dec 8 to oppose the ICERD's ratification Mr Noor said that the organisers had submitted the application for a police permit.
"We will interview the organisers about it. It is to make sure the organisers will ensure the rally will abide by the law and that it will proceed peacefully," he said.