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Writer, publisher make final bid to challenge ‘Gay is OK’ book ban
Published on: Tuesday, December 26, 2023
By: FMT, V Anbalagan
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Writer, publisher make final bid to challenge ‘Gay is OK’ book ban
The home ministry banned the book ‘Gay is OK! A Christian Perspective’ in 2020 because it was deemed an undesirable publication. (Gerakbudaya pic)
PETALING JAYA: The author of the book “Gay is OK! A Christian Perspective” and his publisher have filed an application with the Federal Court to remove a ban imposed by the government following a decision by the Court of Appeal in September.

Lawyer Edmund Bon, who is appearing for writer Ngeo Boon Lin and publisher Chong Ton Sin of Gerakbudaya, said 11 legal and constitutional questions have been filed to obtain leave from the apex court for the merit of the complaint to be heard.

“The Federal Court registry has fixed the leave application to be heard on Feb 28,” he told FMT.

Applicants must satisfy the court by framing novel legal and constitutional questions that are of public importance and raised for the first time, as required under Section 96 of the Courts of Judicature Act.

In a majority decision on Sept 25, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the government’s bid to reinstate a ban on the book.

Justice Wong Kian Kheong said the High Court judge erred in finding that the book was unlikely to cause prejudice to public order, morality and public interest.

Wong said the government’s concern about the book title and its content was also justified although it had been in circulation for seven years prior to the ban.

He added that the lower court judge had wrongly applied the principle of freedom of expression under Indian law to the case, pointing out that there was a difference in the wording of the applicable provision in the constitutions of both countries.

According to Wong, the High Court was also wrong to rely on the rights encompassed in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as Parliament had not enacted any local law to enforce those principles.

Wong added that under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) 1984, giving an aggrieved party the right to be heard and to give reasons for any ban was unnecessary.

Justice Azizah Nawawi, who led a three-man bench to hear the government’s appeal, concurred with Wong. However, Justice M Gunalan, who dissented, said he agreed with the High Court’s finding that the applicant had a legitimate expectation in the matter.

Gunalan said the lower court was right in ruling that the ban on the book after seven years was irrational and a breach of natural justice.

Chong and Ngeo successfully got the High Court to quash the ban last year.

The home ministry banned the book in 2020 because it was deemed an undesirable publication. The book was published in 2013.

Sometime in February 2020, home ministry officers conducted random checks at the Gerakbudaya bookstore and found copies of the book on display. They brought the book to the ministry’s office to review its contents.

After examination, then home minister Hamzah Zainudin said he was satisfied that the book’s contents were “likely to be prejudicial to morality”. The government’s position was that the book promoted homosexuality and contravened the cultural beliefs of the country.

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