At 9.35 this morning, clad in a red baju kurung and flashing her trademark smile, Teresa Kok strode confidently into the room. From her demeanour, the scene could have been a market walkabout session or a boardroom meeting. But this was the Criminal Sessions Court 1 in Jalan Duta, and the Seputeh MP was about to be charged for sedition.
Alone in the dock, the DAP National Vice Chairman was accompanied by many party supporters including Selangor State Speaker Hannah Yeoh, Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng, Rahang State Assemblywoman Mary Josephine, Kota Kinabalu MP Jimmy Wong and many others.
The Court Interpreter read out the charge, framed from Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948, which is used against a person who publishes any seditious publication. The maximum sentence for an offence under this section is RM5,000 or three years jail, both of which could disqualify Kok from holding office.
The four-term MP was unfazed and pleaded not guilty to the charges, which defence lawyers called “an insult to the intelligence”. The defence lawyers Param Cumaraswamy and Sankara Nair then applied for Kok to be released on personal bond, as was allowed for Anwar Ibrahim during his last trial. Justice Norsharidah bt Awang was unmoved by defence counsels’ argument that as an MP and a cooperative subject, Kok does not pose a flight risk. The judge rejected the application and fixed bail at RM4,000.
Also on the legal team is Teresa’s fellow DAP MP Gobind Singh Deo, looking alert despite his inhuman schedule since his father Karpal Singh’s untimely death last month. Gobind tells us that while the late Karpal was charged with sedition just before his demise, the defence did not request for personal bond and chose to post the requested bail amount of RM2,000. “We don’t need any favours from the court,” he said.
The Puchong MP is equally determined to fight out the charges for his client, together with fellow defence lawyers Param Cumaraswamy, Sankara Nair, and Aaron Lee. Former Bar Council President Param Cumaraswamy was himself charged (and acquitted) under the same law in 1986, his case is compulsory reading for students of constitutional law.
Senior lawyer Sankara Nair -better known as S.N Nair – is Anwar Ibrahim’s defence lawyer, while Aaron Lee also represented actress Lim Ching Miau when she was questioned by the police regarding her role in the Onederful Malaysia video clip.
Public opinion that the charge is flimsy and politically-motivated is backed by the actions of the Home Ministry itself, which after weeks of investigation admitted that the video did not insult the Prime Minister. Bar Council President Christopher Leong was also quoted as saying that the video was not seditious.
Not to mention the fact that it took over three months after the video was released (in late January) for the Attorney General to file charges. Does it take that long for the investigation to determine if a video is seditious or not?
Legally speaking, all that is needed to prove a person guilty of sedition is for the prosecution to establish that the published material has “a seditious tendency”.
How does one prove that? The Sedition Act gives several definitions in relation to “exciting disaffection against the Government”, “bringing into hatred or contempt the administration of justice” or “promoting feelings of hostility between the races”.
Others who have been found guilty of sedition include Karpal Singh (for saying that the Sultan can be sued), Lim Guan Eng (for saying that the AG used double standards in a rape case of a 15 year old malay girl), and Dr Ooi Kee Saik (for commenting that Malays dominated the civil service).
Many others have been charged for comments are trivial as expressing her concern for her husband’s safety in detention (Wan Azizah in September 1998), for publishing an article which criticised the media and judiciary in relation to Anwar’s case (Harakah’s Zulkifli Sulong in January 2000) and for saying that the people’s power can topple the government (student activist Adam Adli in May 2013).
In Teresa’s case, the transcript of the offending portion of the 11-minute video was read out. It related to national security, where Master Yan Yan says “Malaysia is the sixth most dangerous country”. The make-believe feng shui master also spoke about “pirates, kidnapping, and opening live fire” in Sabah.
The charge also touched on a portion of the video where Uncle Wai discussed about Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools. The last portion of the charge was in relation to “selling out the Chinese” and the “Chinese-selling” party.
Kok has maintained that the video is a parody and does not contain any sensitive elements, asking reporters “what’s so wrong with the script?”. With the trial fixed for 2nd September, we can expect to see an in-depth discussion of subjects deemed sensitive in Malaysia, in the context of an archaic law which the government claimed it would replace in 2012.
One thing is for sure, Kok is walking her talk that public figures are bound to be criticised and they should face it with a sense of humour. -The Rocket