PETALING JAYA: The federal government has been told to stop passing the buck on the use of the Sedition Act 1948 and to take decisive action, such as issuing a moratorium against its use by the authorities.
In a statement, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) executive director Sevan Doraisamy said it was appalled by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks on the colonial-era law which Pakatan Harapan had vowed to repeal in its manifesto.
Mahathir said today that the government had yet to determine a timeline for its repeal and in the meantime, the police were still using it.
Sevan said the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration recognised the flawed nature of the Sedition Act and promised to repeal it during the 3rd Universal Periodic Review for Malaysia.
“While the BN has since retracted that position for political purposes, the spirit for the repeal of the Sedition Act did not disappear with it’s ‘U-turn’.
“Since the transition of power of May 9, 2018, Suaram and other civil societies have consistently called for and advocated for a moratorium on draconian laws that continue to repress everyday Malaysians.”
Sevan said Suaram recognised that legal reform was a lengthy process and this was why it was important to have a moratorium to stop the use of the Sedition Act.
“Without any moratorium and no clear directive or position adopted by the Cabinet on the matter, it is unsurprising that enforcement agencies, especially the police, continue to utilise the Sedition Act and other draconian laws.”
This, he said, was in clear violation of human rights and make a “mockery” of Pakatan Harapan’s commitment to human rights reform as promised in its manifesto.
“The position, or the lack of position, by the Pakatan Harapan administration, is now untenable and a mockery to the aspiration for change held by all Malaysians.”
The PH-led government has come under fire from activists as well as members of its own coalition, such as Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh, over the continued use of the Sedition Act.
Most recently, Azman Noor Adam, the brother of Umno Supreme Council member Lokman Noor Adam, was detained by the police under the law over a social media post deemed insulting to Mahathir.
‘We are on right track’
Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said Putrajaya was on the right track to repeal the controversial act, adding that it should be tabled in the next Parliament sitting.
He said the attorney-general was working on it.
“Have been following up. Just checked again this afternoon. Should be tabled in the next sitting of Parliament,” he posted on Twitter.
Gobind said the matter would be discussed in the Cabinet this Wednesday. The next Parliament sitting starts on Oct 15.
Abolishing the Sedition Act was part of the Pakatan Harapan election manifesto as it was seen as an arbitrary act and subject to abuse. It was also seen as being used as a political tool to stifle political dissent in Malaysia.