DAP: Drop Sedition Act charges to prove repeal ‘genuine’
KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — The DAP today welcomed the prime minister’s plan to repeal the Sedition Act 1948, but urged the Barisan Nasional (BN) leader to prove the reform is “genuine” by dropping charges under the law against opposition leaders.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak had yesterday said that the 64-year-old law will be replaced with a new national harmony law, a move which is part of a slew of legislative reforms to increase civil liberties he initiated on the eve of Malaysia Day last year.
“Datuk Seri Najib needs to prove to Malaysians that the repeal of the Sedition Act and the introduction of the National Harmony Act is genuine and not another thinly-disguised draconian law, and the only way to do this is by immediately withdrawing all existing charges under the Sedition Act against Karpal Singh (picture) and other leaders,” said Lim Guan Eng in a press statement today.
The DAP secretary-general said that although the party welcomed the repeal of the law which has “been used and abused to suppress legitimate political opposition”, it wants the government “to ensure that its replacement, the National Harmony Act, will not end up like the newly-introduced Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) which has turned out to be nothing but a sham.”
Lim said the PAA had “introduced a multitude of arbitrary requirements, making it even more difficult for people to assemble, and incredibly even outlaws street protests.”
“Worse, the Act (PAA) has now been used to selectively prosecute opposition leaders including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim over the Bersih 3.0 protest in Dataran Merdeka earlier this year.”
The Bagan MP pressed Najib to show “his sincerity and commitment to reform” by retracting court cases against DAP chairman Karpal Singh and other leaders.
Pointing out that Najib had “recently admitted that the Internal Security Act (ISA) was a political tool”, Lim said the prime minister should also issue an “official apology” to everyone who had been convicted under the Sedition Act and the ISA.
Speaking to The Malaysian Insider recently, Bar Council constitutional law committee chief Syahredzan Johan noted a trend for the authorities to cite the Sedition Act as an early measure in their investigations and prosecution because “it is the “easiest offence to satisfy”.
An international human rights group today eyed with caution Najib’s latest law reform, noting that other “repressive” laws had been replaced with laws just as “bad or worse”, citing the ISA and Police Act as examples.
When announcing a raft of reforms last year, Najib admitted that the government’s move to allow greater civil freedom was “risky, but we are doing this for our survival.”
“No individual will ever be detained simply due to political ideology,” he had said in his Malaysia Day message.
The Najib administration has this year repealed the ISA, lifted three Emergency Declarations and enacted the PAA to regulate public gatherings.
The government has also scrapped the need for annual printing licences in the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and lifted the ban on student participation in politics through amendments to the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971.