How We Learn From Naturists Charged in Malaysia

May 30th 2014
It was two years back to recall when the naturists held “Nude Sports Games 2014 Extravaganza” successfully in Penang National Park at Teluk Kampi beach. The event included baton passing, horse riding, swinging kettle bell around campfire, swimming over bodies, crab walking, body painting etc. The event was shot by one of the participants and eventually produced as a video clip. It was shared on naturist forum and then ended up in vimeo and youtube.

August 5th 2014
The video clip went viral on Malaysian facebook and other social media .The video clip made further headline when it was widely published continuously for three days in most press of the three languages in Malaysia.

Opposition parties lodged police reports and accused that the Penang government allowed nudity on the island. The ruling party defended themselves by lodging police report as well, and in order to prove that they did not allow such act in the state. There were total of eleven groups including political parties, associations and individuals that lodged police reports.

Local police requested Interpol assistance to hunt for all the participants who appeared on the video. Overnight, some participants lost their professional careers as a teacher and an airport police. A college student was expelled by the school authority.

One of the participants, a director of documentary surrendered to the police and revealed all the particulars of the participants. Nine were forced to surrender to the police.

August 28th 2014
It was this day that 10 offenders charged in the court for causing public unrest by stripping down naked on the beach. Six pleaded guilty and five were sentenced to a month jail under the section 294(A) penal code; the video producer was sentenced to additional six months jail for exposing the video that surfaced online depicting nude sports games and charged with committing obscenity under section 292 for distributing and possession of pornographic material. Each person was fined RM5000.

Four did not plead guilty, claimed trial and paid bail of RM4000 each. This is virtually highest penalty imposed for nudity in the history of Malaysia.

April 29th 2016
After nearly two years trial and mention, the court finally charged the four offenders with RM5000 each without jail. We partly won the court case due to the fact that we could not afford to hire lawyers to contest in the higher court and the dragging of the trial could affect our careers though and yet we had confidence to win the case.

The factors that contributed for the court to release us were that the ranger in the national park admitted that he allowed the naturists to be nude provided there were no other tourists around. “He was the only person to represent the authority to allow naturists to get nude.” said our lawyer.

Another reason was that the prosecutors whom could not prove the origin of the video that was claimed to contain obscene act and offended the public was ineffective.

Let us look at the section 294 (A) of the Malaysian penal code that claimed the sentence of the accused.

“Whoever, to the annoyance of others, does any obscene act in any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine or with both.”

According to Malaysian law, nudity is treated as obscenity is no way to argue. Thus, there are two points which could have chances to win the case. The accused were on the remote part of a national park where no other outsiders around except the 15 participants and the ranger. Could it be constituted a public place? And the most pertinent point is the act must be contemporaneous with the causing of annoyance to others. It is clear enough that who was annoyed at the scene? The event was known after two months later. Definitely, the section does not apply to the charge.

The trial that four of us have gone through had not really touched the section 294 (A) yet. The magistrate should go through the identification of the characters on the video, the witnesses’ statement and so on. Once it came to the point of the origin of the video, the prosecution was in loss causing four of us to win the first stage of the trial.

If we had continuously fought for the case, despite the finance, time consuming and our careers, we could almost assure that we would have won the case eventually.

What do we learn from the incident and the charge? Many people have claimed that the video caused us to fall into this hot soup. I would say that it is not the video containing nudity. There are abundant of porn and nude videos on the open website but they do not cause the public unrest because the video do not name the place or have the full names of the characters. So do not be afraid if your nude pictures or video contained nudity are uploaded.

In case anybody is charged, be sure to consult many lawyers to seek for their views. There are lawyers who persuade clients to plead guilty. Don’t fall into these lawyers’ advice. They want to get easy money to do easy job. Once you plead guilty and are sentenced to jail or fine or both, that is your business. The lawyers have already received from you a great amount.

Next, do not work alone but as a team. Everyone should state the same words. Hire a lawyer who teach you how to avoid conviction not to plead guilty.

Malaysian police officers show portraits of people allegedly involved in a nudist sports festival, during a press conference in Penang on August 8, 2014. One woman has been arrested and more than a dozen are being sought by Malaysian authorities after images of a nudist sports festival triggered outrage in the Muslim-majority country, police said on August 8. MALAYSIA OUT -- AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)