Hornbill Unleashed

September 7, 2014

Putrajaya never promised to repeal Sedition Act, says Shahidan

Minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim says multiracial Malaysia still needed the Sedition Act. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, September 5, 2014.MD IZWAN

Minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim says multiracial Malaysia still needed the Sedition Act.

Minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim is insisting that Putrajaya never promised to abolish the Sedition Act but only to review it, two years after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak went on record to repeal the colonial-era law.

This revelation by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department comes amid a blitz against opposition politicians, an academic, a news portal and one of its reporters under the 1948 legislation.

Shahidan said Najib’s previous remarks that new laws would replace the Sedition Act did not mean the colonial-era law would be abolished.

“The prime minister never promised to repeal it, he only pledged to review it. This means the Sedition Act may be replaced with the National Harmony Act but it might not be repealed,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Shahidan’s claim contradicted Najib’s statement on July 11, 2012, when he said the Sedition Act 1948 would be repealed and replaced with a new National Harmony Act as part of the government’s transformation plan.

“With this new act, we would be better equipped to manage our national fault lines.

“It will also help to strengthen national cohesion by protecting national unity and nurturing religious harmony,” Najib had said this in a speech at a dinner with the Attorney-General’s Chambers and it was widely reported by both the mainstream and online media.

Civil society and opposition politicians have since then been pressing the government to fulfil its promise.

A year after his first pledge, Najib told the BBC World News programme on July 2, 2013 that the government would “amend the act but we want to keep Malaysia peaceful and harmonious”.

Last Saturday, in response to criticism over the current sedition dragnet, Putrajaya said new harmony laws were being drafted but defended the recent slew of sedition charges against opposition politicians, adding that the courts were fair to all.

“Until new legislation is in place, existing cases must be tried under existing laws,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The statement also reaffirmed that the Sedition Act would eventually be repealed and replaced by new laws.

But Shahidan, who is the minister in charge of parliamentary affairs, said the Cabinet had yet to discuss repealing the Sedition Act, since no replacement drafts have been brought to the table.

“We do not have the draft for the National Harmony Bill yet, the only draft currently available is from the Bar Council which they uploaded on the Internet and spread it widely as though it is our draft, but from the government’s side, there is nothing yet.”

At present, there are working drafts on the National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill, the Racial and Religious Hate Crimes Bill which outlaws hate speech, and the National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Bill which governs a body empowered to hear discrimination disputes.

Drafting of these bills and stakeholder consultation has been led by the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), which is under the purview of the National Unity and Integration Department.

The drafts have been opposed by some Muslim groups on the grounds that they undermined the position of the Malays and Islam.

Shahidan defended the Sedition Act, saying that its repeal would have consequences, just as when preventive detention laws were abolished two years ago.

“We have to remember when the government abolished the Internal Security Act (ISA), we hoped people would be more law-abiding but instead, we see people are becoming worse. In fact, I received a lot of complaints from the public who say they want the ISA to be returned.

“This is what has been requested by people but the government has already done away with it,” Shahidan said.

The ISA has since been replaced with the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012.

He also said the Sedition Act was useful in a multiracial country like Malaysia.

“Without the Sedition Act, people will insult one another and there will be trouble. So the act cannot be repealed or amended in line with the Constitution,” he said.

He also blamed the opposition for constantly trying to sow hatred against the government.

Critics say Putrajaya’s current sedition dragnet was being used to stifle dissent.

Opposition lawmakers like PKR MPs Rafizi Ramli and N. Surendran, Shah Alam MP and PAS central committee member Khalid Samad and DAP Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer, DAP Seputeh MP Teresa Kok and PKR Batu MP Tian Chua are all currently facing trial for sedition.

Under the Federal Constitution, an elected representative is disqualified from office if fined more than RM2,000 or jailed for a term exceeding one year.

Law lecturer Professor Azmi Sharom was the latest to be charged with sedition for an opinion he gave on the Perak constitutional crisis in 2009 while commenting on the Selangor menteri besar crisis.

Malaysiakini journalist Susan Loone was arrested in Penang yesterday for her article on an interview with state exco Phee Boon Poh and the mass arrest of members of Penang’s Voluntary Patrol Unit.


1 Comment »

  1. The present ruling party has the most people who should rightly be charged for sedition – apa lagi cina mau ? – balik tongsan – tak suka migrate lah ! – christian takeover – become like Singapore – $2000 slap – cow head – curry powder – burn Bibles are some cases that SHOULD BE INVESTIGATE period . Some of these are less than 2 years ago…

    Comment by teres6842550 — September 8, 2014 @ 2:21 AM | Reply

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