Sedition Act in Malaysia


The Sedition Act is a colonial leftover. Singapore has it, so does Malaysia. Malaysia has, according to accusations, used the Act on the opposition. Some have called the Act the new ISA, heralding Ops Lallang 2. Malaysia’s human rights watch dog Suhakam reminded the government to keep to its word to repeal the 1948 Act as promised. Najib probably would to claw back support later like when it repealed the ISA. But not now, certainly not before regime critics like the UM law lecturer are dealt with first.

 

DARK DAYS AHEAD FOR M’SIA: Return to hardline rule signals Najib’s political desperation
Written by Charles Santiago

So now, legal experts can’t have a legal opinion. Now that I have written it in one sentence, it looks really weird. More so as a law lecturer, Dr Azmi Sharom, is charged for sedition for providing his legal opinion.

In a newspaper interview, Azmi drew parallels between the Perak constitutional crisis and the current mess in Selangor.

He said the former Perak Sultan had gone against his own constitutional ruling by accepting the petition outside the House, a move which saw the fall of a democratically elected Pakatan Rakyat government.

In his own words, Azmi said the ruler took part in a secret meeting. This is a conjecture which should be allowed in a democracy and academic inquiry.

But let’s look at the wider picture- last month a slew of Opposition politicians were nabbed under sedition either for upsetting the royalty or calling a spade a spade!

Clearly these arrests signal a crackdown on dissenting views. It’s a high-handed attempt to muzzle critical, alternative thinking.

Dark days loom for Malaysia

Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged to scrap the Sedition Act as a part of his political reform to allow for greater freedom of expression in the country.

But going back on his words, Najib is now using the decades-old colonial Act to gag critics, stifle criticisms against the government, keep a lid on political dissent and rob people of their inherent rights, just to cling on to power.

Najib’s administration has played along with this selective outrage at the Opposition politicians and Azmi while those close to the ruling government are yet to face the music for damning remarks, which will further erode the social fabric of the society.

This extraordinary double standard caricatures the lack of tolerance for legitimate questions about the ruling government and Najib’s ruthless style of governance.

The continued use of the Sedition Act will only serve to further weaken and dismantle the foundations of human rights in Malaysia.

All is not lost. Najib and his government can embark on a reputation cleansing exercise by dropping all sedition charges and instead engaging with Opposition politicians, academics and human rights workers in open discussions.

Malaysia’s Independence Day was marred by these arrests that were violations of fundamental democratic principles.

Let’s at least try and make Malaysia Day, which falls on September 16, a catalyst for change.

Charles Santiago is Member of Parliament, Klang

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