On July 11, 2012, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak announced the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 during the Attorney-General Department’s dinner. The announcement came as as part of the prime minister’s slew of so-called “legislative reforms” to increase civil liberties initiated during the eve of Malaysia Day in 2011 in view of the impending General Election.
Malaysians waited with bated breath for the abolition of the archaic Sedition Act. The May 2013 General Election came and went, giving the Prime Minister another term in power, despite Barisan Nasional losing the popular vote. Nothing changed.
When questioned over the lack of progress by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World News in London during his visit in July 2013, Dato’ Seri Najib insisted that the draconian Act will be repealed and a new “National Harmony Act” will be put in place. “We will amend the act but we want to keep Malaysia peaceful and harmonious,” he added.
The Prime Minister also defended to the international audience that his Government has “shown an awful lot of latitude to people who protest against the government, but people cannot say something that will undermine the stability of our country.”
However, ever since the proposed repeal was announced, Malaysians witnessed a record number of Pakatan Rakyat politicians and civil activists charged under the Sedition Act, the completely opposite of what Dato’ Seri Najib Razak promised the people.
Last year, PKR’s Tian Chua, PAS’s Tamrin Ghafar along with activists Haris Ibrahim, Adam Adli and Safwan Anang were charged for sedition.
This year, the late DAP National Chairman Karpal Singh was found guilty of sedition purely for citing constitutional provisions for a ruler in the state to be taken to Court. For upholding our Federal Constitution, he was fined RM4,000. If not for his untimely passing, he would have been disqualified from his parliamentary seat if the decision is upheld during appeal. Worse, the Attorney-General had appealed for a jail sentence to be imposed on Karpal, despite his partially paralysed conditions.
This week, DAP Vice-Chairman, Teresa Kok is the latest victim of a politically-motivated sedition charge. Teresa was charged over her satirical “Onederful Malaysia” video published in February this year. Nothing in the charge sheet produced by the Attorney-General’s office referred to the typically sensitive subjects of race, religion and royalty.
Instead, Teresa was charged for criticising the incompetence of the Government in handling the security in Sabah which has resulted in multiple tourist kidnappings, as well as criticising the Malaysian education system.
If the latest charge against Teresa using the Sedition Act isn’t a clear cut abuse of the Act to suppress vocal dissent against the Government, then what is?
The Prime Minister is a hypocrite to boast to the world that he had “shown an awful lot of latitude to people who protest against the government”. Clearly, none of the above victims of the Act had said anything which “will undermine the stability (or security) of the country”. They have at best, undermined the credibility of the Barisan Nasional government which must be allowed in any democratic country.
It is clear from the actions of the Najib’s administration that he has no intent on repealing the Act. Instead the Act will be used more viciously against BN’s political opponents to curtail the freedom of speech and the country’s democratic space. What is most sad is that in Malaysia, a Prime Minister who has lied to Malaysians, and repeated the same lie to the rest of the world, gets to keep his job by abusing draconian laws in his power. -The Rocket