The amendment to the Evidence Act intends to prevent people from hurling baseless accusations and posting hate-rantings against the government.
Last year Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak promised that Malaysia will never censor the internet. This was the policy adopted by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during his tenure when Cyberjaya and the Multimedia Super Corridor were launched.
However on June 1, 2012 the Evidence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 2012 comes into effect. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz claimed that the law was tightened because “we don’t want (anonymous or pseudonymous) people to slander or threaten others,” according to a report in a local English daily.
While that is understandable, he must be reminded that last year someone had slandered Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s son as having molested a schoolgirl and so far no action has been taken on that person. Even the so-called schoolgirl was not a schoolgirl at all!
With the new law coming into effect so suddenly, it is hoped that the BN government will be fair when it comes to exercising the provisions of this legislation.
Still, internet accounts are open to hacking and innocent parties could be in trouble due to this new piece of legislation which shifts the burden of proof to the owner of the computer/internet account to prove his innocence by producing evidence that it was not him who made the slanderous posting.
Why did the new law come into effect when the 13th General Election is just around the corner?
The purpose of the new amendments is to force an innocent party to adduce evidence that he is not the publisher. Therefore, he is guilty until his innocence is proven. He needs to prove that he has no access to the computer or the internet at the material time those said statements were published online and he needs to substantiate this by calling for witnesses who can be his alibi.
Simply put, the new law intends to prevent people from hurling baseless accusations and posting hate-rantings against the government. That is fine but international news is international news and no one can stop the same from being published onto the internet.
Why the sudden irrational fear from the government? So much for the internet. There is also the problem of hooligan politics which is getting increasingly rampant lately.
Recent incidents were in Merlimau, Malacca and Lembah Pantai in KL where stones were hurled with the intention to cause injuries and cars belonging to Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers were vandalised and damaged.
Former Perak Menteri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin of PAS had his car splashed with blue paint on the front portion during a ceramah in Perak and this shows that the hooligan behaviour is widespread.
Is this unhealthy trend of violence being perpetuated as a threat to democracy and civil society? Who is behind these attacks? And what is the motive? Surely there is a purpose behind all these seemingly so-called mindless acts.
To paraphrase Shakespeare: “there is method in the madness”. Is all the madness executed with the agenda to inculcate fear, quell dissent and suppress democracy? If so, then those masterminds are using the old rulebook.
It is time for them to wake up to the year 2012 and to realize that in this day and age as civil society becomes more advanced in terms of technology and education, the old methods no longer work. By using the old methods to govern us, the citizens will be forced to be stuck in the Age of Barbarians.
Are these desperate measures undertaken by those in power who fear losing power? Are they afraid of the civil society movement initiated through Bersih 1.0, Bersih 2.0 and Bersih 3.0?
They have seen that Bersih 1.0 and the Hindraf movement have caused them to lose their 2/3 majority in Parliament and therefore perhaps Bersih 2.0 and Bersih 3.0 will make them lose much more.
Therefore desperate times call for desperate measures and those in power are getting increasingly crazier by the day as they lose all sense of moral decency.
Their programmes benefitting the citizens are merely crumbs thrown to the rakyat and are piecemeal measures to silence the voices of discontent but does not solve the problem in the long term.
The cancelling of the student loans to Unisel students in Selangor is a vindictive method to persecute the rakyat. We do not need a vindictive government. We need good governance and a clean and transparent government in order to move forward with the times.
Thus civil society must continue to press forward for these demands to be met. This is only the natural course of events and the arrogant powers-that-be must make a wise decision to benefit the common citizens and not be selfish to cling on to power at all costs just to benefit only an elitist group.
Selena Tay is a FMT columnist