Current Affairs

Bulldozed and dazed: Amendments pushed through Parliament


Pic from

Pic from

Bulldozed and dazed: this is probably the only way to describe how the amendments to the Sedition Act was passed in Parliament. 

The Bill was passed in the wee hours of the morning, after 108 MPs from Barisan Nasional voted for the amendments and 79 Pakatan Rakyat MPs voted against it.

The debates lasted well over 12 hours, with PR MPs vociferously objecting to the Bill for the very reasons BN MPs have ignored: it is an affront to basic fundamental human rights.

At one point, sexists remarks were even thrown into the fray, and BN MPs stood before their constituents and tried to convince them the Sedition Act was the only way to protect them from bad people with ill intent on the big, bad internet.

Who those bad people are, we have no idea, but presumably they must be PR MPs who, among the 168 people arrested since the start of the year, made up a large chunk of that staggering number.

In its aftermath, many from civil societies organisations and politicians spoke out against the Sedition Act amendments.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) 2.0 in a statement had called the amendments yet “another attack on free speech.”

Its steering committee lashed out at the government for the amendments to the Sedition Act 1948.

“Less than 12 hours after passing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), the government has launched another attack on the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Bersih 2.0 stresses the denial of bail should never be used to punish the accused,” said Bersih.

The group added that currently, offences which can be denied bail are limited to exceptional crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping – which are usually punished with death or life imprisonment.

“Is the government now equating sedition with such crimes? Is freedom of speech becoming so terrifying to this government?” the group said.

“Bersih 2.0 considers this move as a display of the Government’s contemptuous attitude towards Malaysia’s public institutions,” said the group.

In a joint statement, the Malaysian Bar, the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak and the Sabah Law Association also expressed their disagreement to the amendments.

“We are appalled by the amendments to the Sedition Act 1948 passed by the Dewan Rakyat. We are extremely disappointed that the Malaysian government has not only reneged from the promise made in 2012 to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 and replace it with the National Harmony Act, but has substantially strengthened the former with drastic and oppressive provisions.

“The Sedition Act 1948 is an archaic, obsolete and regressive law that must be abolished.  It severely restricts, or even extinguishes, the freedom of speech and expression, and hence tramples on the constitutional rights of Malaysians.  It is the antithesis of democracy, justice and human rights,” Bar Council president Steven Thiru said.

He added that the amendments have dealt a crippling blow to the rule of law in Malaysia, and lend weight to the widely held public perception that we are becoming an intolerant authoritarian state. 

“The democratic space for frank, meaningful and robust discourse has been palpably reduced.  The amendments reinforce the concern that the limits to freedom of speech and expression are to be determined by those in our society who are not open to adverse comments or contrary ideas, or who are easily offended or angered.  This nurtures an environment of intemperance and intolerance,” he added.

The statement goes on to highlight several key areas where the amendment have trampled upon basic human rights and freedom of expression.

“We call on the Malaysian government to heed the salutary words of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who said, “Silencing dissent does not nurture social stability, but an open democratic space does”.

“The Sedition Act 1948 is inherently flawed, and the amendments serve to expose and exacerbate its weaknesses.  It is a law that undermines genuine unity and harmony, and is counterproductive to lasting peace, strong bonds of unity and real mutual respect in Malaysia.

“The Sedition Act 1948 has no place in our nation, which aspires to be a modern, moderate and progressive democratic society,” he said, and urged the government to fulfil its earlier promise to repeal the Sedition Act entirely.

However, these words appear nothing more than words shouted at a wall, what with the way the government chose to ignore them.

Read related reports:

Who’s afraid of the big bad Sedition Act?

Worrying slide down human rights ladder

– The Rocket


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