PKR Batu MP Tian Chua was sentenced to three months’ jail and fined RM1,800 after he was found guilty of sedition by the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur today. His conviction was immediately denounced as wrongful.
The charge was over remarks he made during a forum three years ago after the 13th General Election. Sessions Court judge Zulqarnain Hassan ruled the prosecution had proven the charge against Tian Chua, who is also PKR vice-president, beyond reasonable doubt.
He added that he was satisfied that Tian Chua, had a “tendency to utter seditious words with the intent of toppling a democratically elected government”.
The judge pointed to the words ‘bangkit’ (rise up) and ‘turun ke jalan raya’ (take to the streets), used by Tian Chua during the forum, as being seditious in nature.
“There is no doubt his speech had the tendency to incite people to change the legally elected government,” the judge added.
He found Tian Chua’s words to be seditious under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act 1948.
Eric Paulsen of Lawyers For Liberty says Tian Chua’s sentence shows the government is still stuck in the past, exercising the Sedition Act using it as a way to oppress the Opposition.
“Malaysia is supposed to be a country that exercises democracy therefore Tian Chua has the right to express his discontent towards the government.
“Asking the people to go to the streets to protest does not pose a threat harmful enough to be charged under the Sedition Act,” says Paulsen.
Paulsen reminds that in most countries such as Australia, the UK and most Commonwealth countries have abolished the Sedition Act.
“Except maybe Canada, but though they have not abolished the Sedition Act, it has not been used for many years now. Malaysia is the only country at present that is using the Sedition Act to such harsh effect,” he adds.
He explains that in most Sedition Act cases a person is only charged or considered to have committed a criminal offence when he is encouraging an act of taking up arms.
“It is the other way around here in Malaysia. Tian Chua has done nothing to that effect that is criminal enough to be charged under the Sedition Act,” he adds.
On May 13, 2013, shortly after the 13th GE, Tian Chua made the speech at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, where alongside with him were speakers including Hishamuddin Rais, Adam Adli, Safwan Anang, Tamrin Ghafar and Haris Ibrahim, who have also been prosecuted for sedition.
The law provides for a maximum fine of RM5,000 or a prison sentence of up to three years or both for the offence.
An MP, fined more than RM2,000 or sentenced to more than one year’s prison term, would lose his seat in the Dewan Rakyat and be barred from contesting for a seat for five years.
Tian Chua was also granted a stay pending appeal against the conviction. The sentence will not affect his position as an MP.
His counsels, N Surendran and Latheefa Koya, said they would appeal as they believe he should not have been convicted in the first place.
Soo Wern Jun@The Heat Malaysia Online