Fear Not Amendments to/Repeal of the Sedition Act

In his speech at the National Ummah Unity Convention, held on the 25th of August 2019 at KL International Hotel, Mr Aminuddin Yahya, Chairman of the Gerakan Pembela Ummah (UMMAH),[1] inter alia listed 7 threats being faced from UMMAH’s perspective. The full transcript of the speech, in the national language, can be found on UMMAH’s Facebook page.[2]

For summary purposes, the 7 threats translated into English are as follows:

Threat 1: Liberalism Movement

Threat 2: Christianization

Threat 3: Human Rights Movement

Threat 4: Movement To Amend Laws

Threat 5: A Critical Economy

Threat 6: Extremist Movement

Threat 7: An Uncertain Future

This article intends to respond to a certain point made in relation to Threat 4 (i.e. Movement To Amend Laws). According to Mr Aminuddin, amendments to laws and policies such as the Sedition Act, the National Culture Policy,[3] and the abolition of the death penalty, if successful, would continue to the marginalize the position of the Royalty, the Malays, and Islam.


The Regression Of Our Society

Yesterday, the video “Samseng attack GHAH @ Speakers Square Penang” by youtube user Advotool Media came to my attention. For those of you who did not watch it, basically, Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH)’s Penang coordinator Ong Jing Cheng as well as a few others were heckled and pushed around during their peaceful gathering at Penang’s Speaker’s Square

“Unacceptable, abhorrent, repulsive, barbaric, uncivilized, undemocratic, illegal, insolent, untenable, quixotic, unscrupulous, boorish, cockamamie, craven, dastardly, egregious, odious, and asinine” were some of the words that flashed through my mind as I watched the seven minutes and thirty seconds video 

Aren’t the troublemakers worried about the civil and criminal repercussions of their actions? The few that instantly came to mind were: psychic assault, battery/physical assault, and the use of criminal force otherwise than on grave provocation (s.352 of the Penal Code)

The Coalition of Penang Islamic NGOs even had the gall to say that they were merely asserting their freedom of speech! It seems as though as our society is regressing instead of progressing!

Under what sick and twisted logic does the freedom of expression allow you to physically and verbally abuse another person? Just as you have the right to speak responsibly, the other person does too!

The Coalition of Penang Islamic NGOs blamed the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government for promoting freedom of expression by opening up a Speaker’s Square.

The coalition’s general secretary was quoted as saying, “The move by the state government to allow a Speaker’s Square and to allow freedom of speech is causing havoc, fights and all sorts of incidents”

As we should know, the freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 10 of our Federal Constitution, and is subjected to the laws of our land on defamation, criminal intimidation, assult, insult, etc.

Therefore, the Penang Government’s act of opening a Speaker’s Square for people to speak their mind is in line with Article 10 and is a good step in enhancing democracy in our nation

Ahmad Yakuub’s statement that “every Sunday, from 6pm to 7pm, we (the public) are free to say what we want at the Speaker’s Square, it does not matter whether it is to instigate people” is nothing short of misleading

The Penang Government does NOT have the right to allow a person to speak freely and shield them from criminal prosecution. Hence, those who misuse the freedom at the Speaker’s Square to defame or instigate others will face the full brunt of the law

The use of the Speakers’ Square is subject to the following conditions:

1. All speakers are prohibited from using loudspeakers, megaphone and any other public address system.

2. Anyone who uses the Speakers’ Square to make speeches does so at his or her own risk.

3. The State Government and the Municipal Council of Penang Island will not be responsible for any prosecution or legal action by the Police or civil proceedings

Condition 1 was clearly violated as someone from the pro-Sedition Act camp used a megaphone to drown out GHAH’s Penang coordinator Ong Jing Cheng

Condition 3 clearly substantiates my point that one is still responsible for what he/she says at the Speaker’s Square. The Speaker’s Square is but a mere platform for a person to air his/her views, and for people to have debates and discussions. Speaking there DOES NOT confer an immunity upon the speaker

This is unlike the legal immunity of parliamentary privilege in which our elected representatives are granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made (subject to the rule of unparliamentary language) in the course of their legislative duties.

Such a right is necessary to ensure that even the most controversial issues get debated in Parliament

At the time of writing, no action has been taken against the perpetrators. The police has to be swift in castigating the individuals behind the vile act, regardless of whether a police report is/was made or not

The AG should also expeditiously prosecute those involved and make it a lesson to everyone that such behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated!

If the IGP or the AG can’t do their job properly, it’s high time we replace them with competent individuals. Day after day it seems like our country is heading towards lawlessness!

Besides the initiation of criminal proceedings, Ong Jing Cheng and the British couple can and should sue the scallywags under the law of tort for the assault and battery they underwent.

* Read it also at Malaysiakini, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysia Today, The Malay Mail Online

Freedom Of Speech

It is well known that freedom of speech is guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. However, what most Malaysians do not know is that their freedom of speech is limited. If certain quarters knew, they would not go around making seditious, provocative and/or defamatory statements as it is punishable by law.

Freedom of speech is not an absolute right as it is subject to certain limitations. Clause 2 and 4 of Article 10 of the Federal Constitution allows Parliament to make laws restricting the freedom of speech.

There’s a quote that says, “If you think twice before speaking once, you will speak twice the better for it.”

Below are provisions of the law of Malaysia limiting the freedom of speech. The only shame is that they are rarely used nowadays despite all the statements filled with hatred and bigotry.

Section 298 of the Penal Code makes “uttering any word or making any sound in the hearing, or making any gesture or placing any object in the sight of any person with intention to wound his religious feeling” a criminal offence. The maximum punishment would be imprisonment for one year, or fine, or both.

“Causing, etc., disharmony, disunity, or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will, or prejudicing, etc., the maintenance of harmony or unity, on grounds of religion” is also an offence as per Section 298A of the Penal Code. The punishment is imprisonment between 2 (min) to 5 years (max).

Section 500 of the Penal Code makes defamation a criminal offence which is punishable by imprisonment for two years (max), or fine, or both.

Malaysia also has the Defamation Act 1957 which makes defamation (both libel and slander) a civil offence. Some of the provisions include slander of women (s.4), slander affecting official, professional, or business reputation (s.5), and slander of title, etc (s.6)

Now to our infamous Sedition Act 1948. Section 3(1) defines a “seditious tendency.” It covers seditious statements made “against any Ruler or any Government” [s.3(1)(a)], “against the administration of justice” [s.3(1)(c)], and “to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia” [s.3(1)(e)]

One may wonder, “since we have so many statutes limiting the freedom of speech (albeit for our own good, unless misused), how come the extremists are still running around like headless chickens shouting at the top of their lungs as if their brains are located at their behinds?” To be honest, I do not have the answer. Our Attorney-General needs to step up his game or step down completely for incompetency

* The Malaysian Insider featured this article