In 2012, our Prime Minister openly vowed that the Sedition Act 1948 would be repealed and be replaced by a National Harmony Act. In London last year, he renewed his pledge to abrogate the Sedition Act
To the surprise of many (including MIC’s deputy chief), Datuk Seri Najib Razak decided that it mattered more to please his fellow party members and regain their support, than to be a man of his word and honor his promise.
In UMNO’s recently concluded annual general meeting, Datuk Seri Najib announced that the Sedition Act 1948 is here to stay and will receive further strengthening (as if the Act is not oppressive enough at the moment)
We now know that maintaining the Sedition Act is what UMNO, its members and several other BN component parties want. But more importantly, is it what the electorate wants? The only reason the Government is in power is because of the mandate given by the people. Never forget that political sovereignity lies with the electorate!
So how do we know what the people want? One of the more effective ways would be by engaging in some form of direct democracy. It is not something new and has proven to be a good barometer of the public’s opinion
Alex Salmond, former leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) wanted Scotland to exit the United Kingdom and go solo despite being a part of Great Britain since 1707. As SNP advocates Scottish independence, it is safe to assume that all of Salmond’s party members would have wanted the same for Scotland
The question is, did Alex Salmond and the SNP decide amongst themselves whether to leave the union on behalf of the people of Scotland, just because they were democratically elected? No!
What happened is that Alex Salmond and co got the UK Government, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, to allow Scotland to conduct a referendum regarding its future in the UK (see the 2012 Edinburgh Agreement)
The decision to leave the United Kingdom would have had grave repercussions, thus it was only logical that the people should be consulted. What better way to obtain the public’s views than through a referendum?
The Scottish Parliament then passed the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 and the Scottish Independence Referedum (Franchise) Act 2013 in order for the referendum to take place
The 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum showed the entire world that the majority (55.3%) of people who voted wanted Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom. Why can’t we have a referendum regarding the preservation/repeal of the 1948 Sedition Act?
Some of you may be wondering, “but going independent is not the same as maintaining the Sedition Act!” That’s true to a certain extent. However, once you see the bigger picture, you’ll see that both have the ability to impact the lives of the people
It has been established that it may be seditious to give a legal opinion (see Karpal Singh’s case), or to state the law as it is (see Azmi Sharom’s case), or to ‘like’ a Facebook page of your choice (see case of Form Five student). Still disagree with me?
Furthermore, less than a month ago, the state of Massachusetts conducted a referendum regarding the abolition of the Massachusetts 2011 casino gambling law. The result: 60% of voters agreed to preserve the statute, and the legislation remains valid till today. If a state in the United States can do so, why can’t we learn from their example?
After all, some who voted for Barisan Nasional may be against the Sedition Act because of its possible misuse due the absence of requisite to prove the accused’s intention (contrary to criminal law principles)
Perhaps many who voted for Pakatan Rakyat are against the Sedition Act because of the wide definition of ‘seditious tendency’ which leaves it open to potential abuse
Moreover, fence sitters could be sick and tired of the Sedition Act appearing to be a tool for the Government to silence dissent and Opposition leaders. There are so many uncertainties which can be resolved by a simple referendum!
Anyhow, by virtue of going back on his promise, Datuk Seri Najib has created a very dangerous precedent in which the very promises/pledges that come out of his mouth are subject to sudden change. The only silver lining is that his flip-flop attitude may lead him to someday make a u-turn regarding his decision to preserve the Act!
*The Malay Mail Online, Malaysiakini, and Free Malaysia Today featured this article
“Who Does The Sedition Act Protect?”
That is an important question that Perkasa president (Datuk Ibrahim Ali) and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan) have attempted to address in the past week or so.
Datuk Ibrahim Ali in all his wisdom articulated that the Sedition Act was enacted protect the non-malays. He was quoted as saying, “The Malays are the majority group, if there is any conflict, it would not affect them but affect the minority groups.”
It appears as though as Datuk Ibrahim Ali has found how to ameliorate decades of unresolved racial tension! However, his statement is oversimplifying everything.
What he’s trying to say is that, with all the troublemakers locked up, there wouldn’t be any conflict between the races. We will see below why this isn’t true
Moving on to Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan, the former Transparency International has drawn a lot of flak for insisting that the Sedition Act is needed to preserve peace and harmony in a multiracial society.
What he said bears some resemblance to what was said by Datuk Ibrahim Ali. Basically, the Sedition Act will be used “to stop anyone from making remarks that incite violence and hatred in our society”
A quick reflection of the use (or misuse) of the Sedition Act will clearly reveal to us who it really protects.
As we all know, anti-islam and anti-malay comments are treated as seditious. No argument there as the Attorney General has been very consistent on this issue. Apparently now, anti-umno statements would be regarded as seditious (as per RSN Rayer’s “UMNO celaka” remark)
The latest additions to the list of seditious issues include legal opinion (the late Karpal Singh, Edmund Bon), liking an Israel related Facebook page (unnamed 17 year old schoolboy), publishing an article regarding an interview on police treatment (Susan Loone), and academic opinion (Azmi Sharom)
Will there come a time when everything under the sun is seditious? Nah!
1. Anti-Hindu statements are not seditious.
(i) Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah:
“Pernahkah kita bersungut ketika perayaan Thaipusam? Seminggu sebelum perayaan, seluruh kawasan sekitar Batu Caves sesak. Kenderaan diparkir sesuka hati. Lautan manusia satu warna berhimpun, seolah-olah tidak ada warna lain lagi di negara ini.”
Have we (the Muslims) ever complained during Thaipusam? A week before the festival, the entire area surrounding Batu Caves experiences traffic jam. Cars are parked everywhere. There is an ocean of similar coloured humans gathered, as if no other colour exists in this country
(ii) Datuk Zulkifli Noordin
“I have been to Sungai Ganga before. How can you (the Hindus) say it’s pure? There are chicken carcasses and small sticks floating,”
2. Anti-Christian statements are not seditious
(i) Anti-christian seminar at UiTM
“Every Jesus follower should enter Islam. If not, it would be a betrayal to Jesus” (Insan LS Mokoginta)
“The Christian gospel is a fake gospel.” (Masyud SM)
(ii) Datuk Ibrahim Ali
“Muslims must unite to protect their religion. They must seize those Bibles, including the Malay editions, which contained the term Allah and other Arabic religious terms, and burn them”
(iii) Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah
“Unfortunately Muslims do not go to churches to see how they (Christians) condemn Muslims. We are accused of oppression and cruelty towards Christians”
– such claims are baseless as churches do not preach hatred towards other religions
3. Selangor ‘darul babi’ is not seditious
(i) Dr Ridhuan Tee Abdullah
“I am worried, if this project (RM100m integrated pig farm) is approved, Selangor will be known as darul babi”
If indeed the Sedition Act is meant to protect the non-malays or even to preserve peace and harmony, why are all the aforementioned individuals getting away scot-free despite all the hue and cry?
So who does the Sedition Act really protect? Until now, no one can say for sure. It remains a hot potato
Henry Ward Beecher once famously said, “Laws and institutions, like clocks, must occasionally be cleaned, wound up, and set to true time.” Ergo, the Sedition Act needs to be ammended or abrogated in order to avoid the dangers of selective prosecution
* Check it out also at The Malaysian Insider, The Malay Mail Online, Malaysiakini, and The Malaysian Times
Two years ago, our beloved Prime Minister vowed that he will repeal the Sedition Act 1948 and replace it with a National Harmony Act. Fast forward two years and we’re still clinging on to a promise (or a re-promise if you will) although there have been positive signs that the National Harmony Bill is slowly but surely getting ready for tabling
However, it was reported yesterday that most UMNO grassroots leaders are for the Sedition Act. Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, claimed 161 out of a total 191 divisions nationwide had voiced a desire to keep the pre-independence law in a recent survey undertaken by central Umno.
The news is not at all surprising as in recent times, UMNO leaders haven’t been charged with sedition despite making arguably seditious statements. We have Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s statement about a repeat of the May 13 racial riots, as well as Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi’s recent “non-malays are getting arrogant” rant
A joint statement made by a coalition of Malaysian NGOs in protest of the Sedition Act listed down those who have been charged under the draconian and archaic piece of legislation. They are:
1. David Orok – Member, Sabah Reform Party
2. Azmi Sharom – Law professor, University of Malaya
3. N. Surendran – Lawyer, Padang Serai MP
4. Khalid Samad – Shah Alam MP
5. R.S.N. Rayer – Lawyer, Seri Delima assemblyman
6. Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman – President, Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia
7. Teresa Kok – Seputeh MP
8. Chua Tian Chang – Batu MP
9. Hishamuddin Rais – Social activist
10. Adam Adli – Student activist
11. Safwan Anang – Student activist
12. Haris Ibrahim – Lawyer/ Social activist
13. Tamrin Tun Abdul Ghafar – Political activist
14. Md Shuhaimi Shafie – Sri Muda assemblyman
Numerous others are being investigated, including:
1. Viktor Wong – Activist, Parti Rakyat Malaysia
2. Susan Loone – Journalist, Malaysiakini
3. Hassan Karim – Lawyer/ PKR Johor vice chairman
4. Rafizi Ramli – Pandan MP
5. Ali bin Jalil – Member of public
6. 17-year-old schoolboy (unnamed)
7. Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin – Changkat Jering assemblyman
It is undeniable that some of the aforementioned things said/done are controversial. But do we need the Sedition Act when we have the Penal Code (s.298, 298A, s.500) and the Defamation Act 1957 to deal with such sensitive matters?
To get a better view of whether to repeal/maintain the Sedition Act, it is necessary to do a nationwide referendum. A survey of the UMNO division heads nationwide would be insufficient to safely conclude that Malaysians want the Sedition Act to stay
A referendum is the most effective way to obtain public opinion as evidenced in Scotland, whereby on the 18th of September this year, Scottish citizens will be asked whether they want Scotland to go independent, thus leaving the United Kingdom. It is only logical that the rakyat are consulted about such a momentous thing
Similarly in our country, we should have a referendum about the future of the Sedition Act. The wishes of the majority should then be respected and acted upon. On my part, I am Joshua Wu Kai-Ming and I demand the abolition of the Sedition Act #MansuhAktaHasutan #AbolishSeditionAct
*This article also appeared at The Malaysian Insider, The Malay Mail Online, and Malaysiakini
(i) Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has made an about turn regarding his past pledges to abolish the Sedition Act 1948. Instead, he intends to strengthen it (27th November 2014)
An imperative piece of news which may have slipped the attention of many (likely due to the ongoing Menteri Besar saga in Selangor) is about a Form 5 boy in Penang being investigated under the 1948 Sedition Act for ‘liking’ a Facebook page titled, “I Love Israel”
I will attempt to look at this issue from an objective legal standpoint. If you are interested to further find out about the freedom of speech (more so its limitations) in Malaysia, you may do so by reading my previous article
Back the issue, I’m sure many of you are wondering whether liking a facebook page can amount to sedition. The use of social media has somewhat become a hot potato to the Government as information (be it true, or false) can be spread so easily
Just a little background, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in which Malaysia is a signatory) defined the freedom of expression as the right of every individual to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of speech and exception. However, under clauses (2), and (4) of Article 10, Parliament may impose certain laws to limit the ambit of our right to say what we want and to spread our opinions (e.g. the Sedition Act 1948, Defamation Act 1957)
It was articulated that the Form 5 boy will be investigated under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act. Section 4(1) makes it an offence if any person
(a) does or attempts to do, or makes any preparation to do, or conspires with any person to do any act which has or which would, if done have seditious tendency;
(b) utters any seditious words;
(c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication; or
(d) imports any seditious publication
At this juncture, we would need to know what constitutes a “seditious tendency” before we can properly interpret the piece of legislation. Section 3(1) defines a “seditious tendency” as a tendency
(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government;
(b) to excite the subjects of any Ruler or the inhabitants of any territory governed by any Government to attempt to procure in the territory of the Ruler or governed by the Government, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;
(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Malaysia or in any State;
(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the Ruler of any State or amongst the inhabitants of Malaysia or of any State;
(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia; or
(f) to question any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignity or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of Part III of the Federal Constitution or Article 152, 153 or 181 of the Federal Constitution
It is most likely that the boy will be investigated under Section 4(1)(a) [done an act which has a seditious tendency] on the basis that it has the tendency to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the inhabitants of Malaysia [Section 3(1)(d)]
Let us take bring the McDonalds boycott into the picture and draw an analogy. If (for the sake of argument), the majority of Malaysians decide to take part in the boycott, every Malaysian who “liked” McDonald’s facebook page would be investigated for sedition on the basis that their “like” has the tendency to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the inhabitants of Malaysia.
Does anyone else see how ridiculous this sounds? The facts are insufficient but what we know is that the form 5 boy merely liked the “I Love Israel” facebook page (he claims it was accidental) and his teacher found out about it.
Just as the teacher has a right to be anti-Israel, her student has the right to be pro-Israel. It is evident that it is only a matter of opinion. Voltaire once said, “Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too”
The million dollar question is whether we truly have the freedom to hold opinions, or whether we only have the freedom to hold opinions that are acceptable to those having auctoritas
It was further reported that the teacher shared it (the boy’s like of the FB page) on her Facebook page, criticised the student, and the boy’s actions attracted criticism and threats from other Facebook users. There were even calls to boycott the student, and one Facebook user commented the student should be burned
Now, wait a second. One is a mere “like” or “accidental like” (whichever you believe), while the other is an intentional share & expression of contempt/disapproval. The latter even resulted in calls to boycott the student & threats on the boy’s life. Any reasonable man can see which is worse
At least the police appear to be doing an impartial job as Seberang Prai Selatan district police chief Superintendent Shafien Mamat said the police will probe why he had liked the page as well as the threats made against him.
Margaret A. Edwards once said, “Too many adults wish to ‘protect’ teenagers when they should be stimulating them to read of life as it is lived.” That is exactly what happened in this case. Ergo, the teacher should be castigated for her unbecoming actions
*This article can also be read at The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini and The Malay Mail Online