By Hidir Reduan Abdul Rashid | Malaysiakini

The book Gay is OK! A Christian Perspective can now be sold and distributed in Malaysia.

This followed on the heels of the Kuala Lumpur High Court today allowing a legal challenge against the government’s ban over the book.

Lawyer Michael Cheah confirmed that judge Noorin Badaruddin allowed the judicial review application by his two clients — the book’s author Ngeo Boon Lin as well as publisher Gerakbudaya Enterprise.

“The court allowed the judicial review to quash the ban over the book Gay is OK!.

“The court also ordered the respondents (the home minister and the government) to pay costs of RM5,000.

“With the order, the book can technically be sold again (in the Malaysian market),” the lawyer told Malaysiakini.

Today was set for decision on the judicial review application, to be conducted online via Zoom.

Cheah said the court ruled there was no evidence and/or factual basis for the home minister’s justification for the ban.

He said the court found that the respondents failed to show there had been actual prejudice to public order, even after over seven years that the book had been in publication, thus it followed that the book is unlikely to be prejudicial to public order.

The lawyer said the judge found that the respondents’ decision to ban the book was “irrational” as they failed to give the author the right to be heard over any proposed ban of the book, especially as the book has been in circulation for seven years before the ban was imposed.

Cheah added that the judge reiterated that this right to be heard is particularly important as it relates to a citizen’s right to freedom of expression as enshrined under the Federal Constitution.

Might be detrimental to public order

On Feb 17 last year, the author and publisher filed the judicial review bid, contending the ban was irrational as no untoward incidents were triggered following the book’s publication eight years ago.

On Dec 18, 2020, Bernama reported that the Home Ministry gazetted a prohibition order effective Nov 27, 2020 for two publications, among them being the book Gay is OK! A Christian Perspective under section 7(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

The ministry’s Chief Secretary Wan Ahmad Dahlan Abdul Aziz reportedly said the publication had been banned for content that might be detrimental to public order, morals, and public interest.

However, in an affidavit filed on May 27 last year, Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin contended that despite no untoward incidents happening over the now eight-year period since the book’s publication, the book still amounted to the promotion of homosexuality, which could still jeopardise public order and public interest in Malaysia.

His affidavit was part of the response against the legal action.

The minister and the Malaysian government are the two respondents in the judicial review.

The hearing before the High Court was over the merits of the judicial review proper.

On March 30 last year, the court granted leave to the two applicants to proceed with the legal action.

The leave was given following no objections raised by the Attorney General’s Chambers which represents the minister and federal government in the matter.

Federal counsel Mohammad Sallehuddin Md Ali represented the minister and government during today’s court proceedings.