Hornbill Unleashed

September 7, 2014

Slew of sedition charges demonstrate Najib’s weakness

(From left) Mahathir and NajibNathaniel Tan

Few things should be considered worse than breaking a promise. This is true in our day to day lives, and is even more true if you are a head of government.

In July 2012, even the New York Times felt it was worth covering Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s now long unfulfilled promise:

“Prime Minister Najib Razak said the current Sedition Act, enacted in 1948 when the Malaysia was under British rule, “represents a bygone era in our country” and will be replaced with new laws he called the National Harmony Act. ”

Promises are important because the degree to which we keep them determines our credibility — something our prime minister apparently has a severe dearth of.

What started of as the charging of a few politicians for sedition is now clearly being accurately called a dragnet and witch hunt.

Naturally, we wonder why.

So far, the most persuasive explanation was one I first read in a statement by Parti Sosialis Malaysia, which asked: “Is Najib trying to please Mahathir?”

These charges come hot on the heels of criticism by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a man developing quite a reputation for skewering his successors every now and again — presumably when things are not going the way he likes.

It seems fairly likely that these criticisms are primarily about things like big projects not going to the right individuals, rather than what the criticisms actually point out.

Nevertheless, the facts suggest that Najib is now trying to shake the “soft” image that Mahathir has painted of him.

The irony of this is, of course, that these latest actions actually confirm Mahathir’s criticisms that Najib is weak more than they debunk them.

The arrests suggest that Najib has no vision or direction of his own, and is in fact only bumbling along to the tune of others. Today Mahathir says he is soft, and a whole bunch of people are charged with sedition.

If tomorrow Mahathir says we are giving Singapore too much face, will Najib raise the toll charges for visiting Singaporeans the day after?

Who is really running the country here?

One of the few things I remember of the presidential race between George W Bush and John Kerry in 2004 is how the Bush campaign painted Kerry as a flip flop politician who failed to be consistent. This tag stuck, and arguably sank Kerry.

It appears that Najib may suffer the same fate at this rate. He currently bears the shame and ignominy of talking the reformer talk, while walking the tyrants walk. It is hard to imagine any worse hypocrisy.

If you read the Sedition Act in full (http://www.agc.gov.my/Akta/Vol. 1/Act 15.pdf), the latitude of what constitutes sedition is staggeringly wide.

The following are some examples under Section 3 of the act which defines sedition:

3. (1) (a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any ruler or against any government;

3. (1) (c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Malaysia or in any state;

3. (1) (d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or of the ruler of any state or amongst the inhabitants of Malaysia or of any state;

3. (1) (e) to promote feelings of ill will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia;

I am no lawyer, but surely half the things said about the Malaysian government on Facebook or Twitter might constitute sedition as defined under items (a), (c), and (d).

Where could one possibly draw the line as to “hatred”, “contempt” or “disaffection”?

Even if one could, I am sure that Azmi Sharom’s statement that “I think what happened in Perak was legally wrong” would be considered one of the least hateful or contemptuous things one can say, especially by Malaysian standards.

Ideally, the Sedition Act should be abolished completely. Even if it were not, at the very least, we should be able to expect its consistent application.

It would be madness to say that there have not been government-linked groups and individuals that have not promoted “feelings of ill will and hostility between different races”. Some groups in Malaysia clearly exist solely for that very purpose.

To decry the fact that they yet walk free is almost to flog a dead horse at this point. It is bad enough that we have to tolerate them, but to tolerate them while academics like Azmi are charged for providing a considered opinion within their field of study is a step too far.

This considered opinion, it must be said, was also an exercise in consistency. While some who decried the Perak crisis of 2009 suddenly wanted to use what happened as precedent that should apply to the Selangor crisis of 2014, Azmi took the position that if it was wrong in Perak then, it is wrong in Selangor now, and that transparency and proper procedure should always be the order of the day.

Nevertheless, it is heartening to see how old friends rallied to Azmi’s support, despite their differing views on that particular matter. The consistency of that solidarity has no doubt been a comfort for all of us.

If only Najib had practised similar consistency, we would not be faced once again with old tyrannies.



  1. Muhyiddin is in fact saying Najib’s pledge holds no water.
    The Attorney-general is more powerful than the Prime Minister.
    What’s a PM for? I thought the PM is the leader of the ruling government?

    Comment by Syabudin — September 8, 2014 @ 2:57 PM | Reply

  2. People are starting to FEEL worried that they might be hauled up for something as simple as an opinion which basically IS a PERSONAL THOUGHT the requires one to THINK – so if one is hauled up after an opinion shared that came FROM THINKING aloud , I wonder if the sedition is basically , THINKING IS WRONG ! Is it WRONG to THINK ? What madness is this ; You are charged for sedition / THINKING ?

    Comment by teres6842550 — September 8, 2014 @ 2:07 AM | Reply

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