Sedition gone too far

By Syerleena Abdul Rashid currently serves as DAPSY Bukit Bendera Secretary and DAP Wanita Bukit Bendera Political Education Director

syerleena rashidThe ruling party in Malaysia continuously mock democracy at every opportunity. The recent wave of sedition charges handed down to Azmi Sharom, N. Surendran, Khalid Samad, RSN Rayer, Teresa Kok and countless more, is nothing more than a brazen show of arrogance and power exhibited by a regime that has been in power too long.

Our government continuously fails to recognize freedom of speech and is adamant in denying our basic rights as human beings. In a country where some of our leaders come across as moderates and progressive champions of human right, this façade only exists to appease international critics and to earn brownie points from potential FDIs. As Malaysians, we are aware of the jarring realities and the trouble you will get into if you dare to speak your mind.

For decades, the ruling regime has been imposing a rather ruthless brand of political censorship upon its people – the Sedition Act, a law that forbids anything considered seditious or could bring about any acts of rebellion. By definition, any material considered “to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government” will be subjected to this law. Simply put, the law exists to ensure that certain issues (or politicians in the ruling regime) are never questioned or criticized, though such things may be done discreetly but at your own risk. Today, this mostly refers to Bumiputera Rights or Ketuanan Melayu. The law was introduced by the British Colonialists in 1948, who sought to prevent any rebellious uprising that may result from opposing colonial rule. Fast forward several decades later, the same laws are still being applied today with intentions that are obviously malicious in nature, the only difference is that this time, those targeted are non-other than fellow Malaysians who dare present (be it written or verbally) the truth about our beloved country.

History teaches how our Parliament passed a bill that allowed restrictions on freedom of speech after the May 13 incident, which was undeniably, one of the worst riots our country has ever seen. Malaysians do not want to see a repeat of this at all even if certain factions may say otherwise.

What is clear now, however, is that all these “preventive laws” have been abused time and time again for political reasons. For the longest time, the Sedition Act and Internal Security Act (ISA) went hand in hand like two peas in a pod, a harsh kind of law and order or a twisted “Harry and Maude”.

Most Malaysians remember 1987 as the year the ruling regime executed “Ops Lalang” where countless of opposition leaders and critics were incarcerated and lately, one cannot help but feel an awkward sense of déjà vu – are we witnessing a repeat of such atrocity?

Today, the ISA has been dismantled (though its spirit lives on through the newly enacted Crime Prevention Act and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act), and despite much lip service being made by the Prime Minister to abolish the Sedition Act, it is not only in place but continually used!

The latest witch-hunt instigated by the ruling regime is a blatant show of authority thatis aimed to create fear and cast the shadow of doubt in us all. It may work for some but for the rest of us, it serves as a reminder that we must stay strong and insist that changes be made, in a way that is benefitting for all Malaysians, regardless of ethnicity or economic status.

Malaysians are no longer afraid to speak out against tyranny. This is largely attributable to the advent of social media, which has given new voice to the disenchanted and disenfranchised. With Facebook, our voices can be heard by anyone, anywhere. Of course, the authorities, now aware of this, have attempted to crack down on social media as well. More and more people have been arrested over comments made on Twitter and Facebook.

Although the situation appears to be getting uglier, we must remind ourselves to never lose sight of the bigger picture. Stifling the voice of “dissent” or silencing critics through brazen abuse of power will only backfire in the end and one can’t help but wonder about the ironic outcome of this fiasco – charging our fellow Malaysians under the Sedition Act will only make political martyrs out of them and fuel the fire of reforms, for generations to come.

*The views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the columnist. 

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