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Racist comments: If someone uses a slur on you, how can Malaysian law help you?

Last week, national shuttler Kisona Selvaduray’s name was plastered on our social media timelines. But it didn’t have anything to do with one of her badminton tournaments. Instead, she made the news headlines because she was on the receiving end of a racist and derogatory remark by a Facebook user.

This comment was picked up pretty quickly, and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) soon filed a police report against the person. Now, the burning question is: what exactly happens after a police report like this is filed? Malaysia doesn’t have specific laws and Acts for racism, so what existing laws can help you if someone passes a racist comment to you?

There’s a law for inappropriate comments made online


Image credit: Prudent Digital International

The short answer is that it’s fairly more straightforward if the comment is made to you online. And that’s because the Communications and Multimedia Act of 1988 exists. Section 233 of this Act makes it an offence to:

…by means of any network facilities or network service or applications service knowingly 

— (i) makes, creates or solicits; and (ii) initiates…communication which is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person;…

It’s a super long section but we’re focusing on the part that’s most relevant here. As you can see, it doesn’t specifically mention racist comments, but such comments are covered by this section that’s targeted at any offensive remarks.

But now, does this mean that you can’t really do much if someone makes such comments to you in person?

Remarks made in person may be investigated differently


Image credit: Sinar Harian

To answer the question, no, not necessarily. But bear in the mind that there are differences between comments made in person versus ones made online. For starters, it’s easier to prove a comment that was posted online, as you would be able to take a screenshot. If the comment was made in person, you might have trouble strengthening your claim, unless you have a witness.

Also, there’s a specific law for insulting comments made online as seen above. But for ones said face-to-face, there are several laws that can come into play, depending on the situation. In Kisona’s case, the person who made the racist remarks will be investigated under Section 233 of the CMA as mentioned above, as well as Section 504 of the Penal Code which says:

Whoever intentionally insults, and thereby gives provocation to any person, intending or knowing it to be likely that such provocation will cause him to break the public peace, or to commit any other offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.

Again, this is a general provision but what’s interesting is that this covers insults and remarks made through whatever medium, not just ones made online. 

There are other similar laws that can be applied for inappropriate comments made in person, but like we said earlier, it would really depend on the circumstances of the issue. But what’s certain is that Section 504 of the Penal Code is one of them.

What if this happens at your workplace?


Image credit: Human Resources Director

A rude and discriminatory remark does not necessarily need to come from strangers, but it can even happen amongst people you see every day, such as your colleagues. If you encounter this, you always have the option of filing a police report.

But before that, you can also reach out to your superior or HR to deal with it on an internal level. Many companies have rules and policies against discrimation, but because they would vary between each organization, the outcome or action taken would largely depend on each place.

In summary, if someone uses a racist term or slur on you, you have the right to file a report against them. Get as much proof as you can to substantiate your case as that will make investigations easier. But take note that different laws might apply, depending on where the comment was made, how it was made, and if there were any other factors surrounding the incident.


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