The remark by Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor that “Containers for the dead are enough, who wants to go in can give their names,” during a press conference recently has sparked public outrage as such an insensitive comment ought to have never been uttered, more so from one who holds high public office.
What is remarkable is the reaction of the police in commencing investigations at lightning speed, not on the MB, but on those who he obviously provoked with his remark.
It was reported that a senior citizen was arrested not long after the MB’s comment at his home in Negeri Sembilan in the wee hours of the morning and brought all the way to Kedah where the police sought a remand order from the Sungai Petani Magistrates Court to detain him for a period of time for the purpose of obtaining a statement from him.
I understand that apart from the above, others were arrested in connection with the MB’s remark, with one being remanded.
It has been reported that those above are being investigated, amongst others, under section 504 of the Penal Code which states,
“Intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace
504. 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.”
The said section makes it an offence for one to intentionally provoke another person with insults, knowing that it is likely that such provocation will lead that person to commit an offence.
Firstly, there can be no doubt that the remarks of the MB were highly insensitive and capable of causing provocation, having regard to the alarming numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths that have plagued the country of late.
In such a context, any reasonable person would be outraged at such a remark.
Secondly, it is obvious that the police at least suspect that those mentioned above may have committed an offence, hence the reason they were summoned for the purpose of investigations.
The only questions that remain is whether the MB intended to provoke others with his said remark and whether he knew this was likely to cause them to commit an offence.
The MB might have claimed that what he said was a mere joke for the private consumption of a few reporters but the fact remains that he said it at a press conference and not behind closed doors.
Surely, he ought to have known that his said remarks would have been carried by the press as a result.
And the question as to whether he intentionally insulted others with his remark and if he knew this was likely to cause them to commit an offence must be a matter for the police to investigate despite his claim that it was a mere joke, the same way others are being investigated for their comments on his remark.
In light of the above, it is possible that the Kedah MB may have committed an offence under the said section 504 and the only way to determine if this is so is by summoning him for the purpose of investigations.
Will the police pick him up from his residence in the wee hours of the morning and seek a remand order for him from the nearest Magistrate Court for the purpose of investigations, as they did in the case of the senior citizen from Seremban?
Since investigation papers have already been opened in respect of those mentioned above under section 504, amongst others, the police ought to be fair and investigate the MB as well.
He is not above the law and the police must be seen to act without fear or favour by investigating him forthwith.