‘It is time this archaic legislation the handprint of oppression and oppressors of the past is repealed – period!’
MALAYSIA ASEAN/APEC CONSUMERIST & HUMAN RIGHTS LEAD DR JACOB GEORGE CALLS FOR THE REPEAL OF THE SEDITION ACT 1948!
This has been an exciting week truly, first there has been heated discussion about the recent public caning in Terengganu involving two women allegedly for sexual activity between them and a news story that hit the international wire raising doubts the mantra that Malaysia is a moderate country to the winds!
Then when you thought all is safe, that common sense prevails and the love for democratic protocols, we have a political party allegedly set up to fight for justice, electoral changes instead fight each other, allegedly about to abuse the democratic process to position a backdoor entry to their sovereign leader and in the process implode and perhaps split hardly months after an unprecedented electoral victory made possible by one man – sitting Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad!
Do Malaysians not think that at a period of time when integrity, ethics, professionalism and competence amongst politicians and civil servants is at an all-time low and being debated, why are politicians allegedly unashamedly abusing their power?
Then we have the case of an aide of deputy home minister (now sacked!) who was caught up skirting a woman at an optical shop using a hand phone was detained at Solaris Dutamas, Sri Hartamas in Kuala Lumpur!
But the real storm that sent shivers down the spine of Malaysian civil society leaders was the call by an MP that the Sedition Law be used on a retired Inspector of Police for allegedly making seditious comments!
If I am not mistaken several decades ago this legislation was described by a legal commentator, Edward Jenks, as “most arbitrary in criminal law.”
Going a step further – both the victims and those in the profession called to defend their clients against the work of notorious British draftsmen of this 1948 Act first imposed, know how draconian this act is!
Its provisions are much the same except for an amendment in 1971 (which introduced amendments relating to the protection of Bumiputera rights under article 153 of the Federal Constitution, the monarchy and the preeminent position national language).
Historically, we cannot deny that it was a carefully proposed legislation to subjugate any challenge to its rule.
Its target and collateral damage historically were the freedom fighters and nationalists in all its colonies!
Some of the victims of this legislation were Mahatma Gandhi who was imprisoned in 1922 for 6 years for ‘disaffection’.
This much revered man described this legislation as pernicious meant to subdue nationalist leaders; and asked that he be convicted as he would rather go to prison than be forced to submit to a cruel colonial authority.
The damage this legislation unleashed at home is well documented and raised uncontrollably prior to the GE14!
So why would a member of parliament want to continue this this act of bondage on a former Inspector of Police, I cannot fathom when there are other more appropriate laws in the Penal Code we can use?
Even departing from his party’s official stand?
As I stated, we all know there are sufficient provisions in the Penal Code, perhaps criminal defamation, to charge him for inciting hatred in a multiracial society.
As a former top cop, a member of my Alma Mater, I am ashamed as he ought to know that the people no longer subscribe to the tactic of race and religious baiting.
As attorneys, we are horrified of this legislation as its provisions are vague, a distastefully broad and allow persons to be charged on flimsy grounds.
It is saddening that the intention of an accused in making the statement or the act is not relevant under the law.
We can then ask is this not undermining the fundamental basis of criminal liability.
Shockingly, in this process the prosecution need not show that the statement could lead to some disorder or violence.
Basically, the situation is this!
Any person (s) who makes a mere critical statement not intended to create any disorder or violence, and does not in fact lead to any such disorder, can be convicted.
There have been cases in the past where a large cross section of individuals has been affected.
The Sedition Act is a law that attracts such widespread condemnation and is based on vacuous provisions lacks validity in the public eye.
No one can deny this legislation brings the law and those who use it into disrepute.
It should not be part of the legal architecture of a country based on the rule of law in a functioning democracy.
Does this draconian act not send a chilling effect and subvert the democratic process and the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Federal Constitution?
Does it not undermine academic and other legitimate freedoms; hinders independent thought, inquiry and expression?
Do we want to create in what we call post GE14 a new Malaysia a servile and subjugated society ill-equipped to meet the country’s future challenges in a globalized world?
Are the powers-that-be in our society feel that Malaysian political space is so fragile that it cannot vindicate democracy through healthy debate and discussion?
It would be super foolish to state that the only way forward protecting our democracy is the super criminalization of our citizenry who express their views articulating real concerns of state to usher in a free and fair society strong in values, strongly one nation one people upholding our one federal constitution!
It is time this archaic legislation the hand print of oppression and oppressors of the past is repealed – period!
‘It is time this archaic legislation the hand print of oppression and oppressors of the past is repealed – period!’