Defining ‘insult’ doesn’t make Sedition Act any less oppressive, says Bar

George Varughese says the Bar is adamant that the archaic Sedition Act must be repealed. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar said defining what constitutes as insults for authorities to take action under the Sedition Act does not mitigate the “oppressive and tyrannical nature” of the act itself.

Its president, George Varughese, said the Bar is adamant that the archaic Act must be repealed instead.

And while the Bar does not condone any rudeness, insults and or disrespect to the Rulers, or for accusations to be levied against the government without basis, it will never advocate the criminalisation of such behaviour under the Sedition Act 1948.

“The provision of a definition of what is insulting does not mitigate or alter the ‘oppressive’ and ‘tyrannical’ nature of the Sedition Act 1948 — words that the government itself had used to describe the Sedition Act 1948 in its election manifesto for the 14th general election in May 2018,” he said in statement.

Varughese said this in response to Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks that Putrajaya needed to spell out what constituted an insult after he was asked as to why the draconian act was used on those who insulted royalty.

The authorities, the prime minister claimed, did not understand the term.

Describing the Sedition Act as an “instrument of oppression”, Varughese said the law restricts the fundamental freedom of expression enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

“The Malaysian Bar calls upon the government to reinstate its moratorium on the use of the Sedition Act 1948 pending its repeal and for appropriate new laws to be enacted. Police must cease all investigations pursuant to the Sedition Act 1948.”

Four individuals have been detained under the Sedition Act over the past week, three of them accused of insulting the former Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V on social media.

Umno Supreme Council member Lokman Noor Adam was nabbed last night under the Act for allegedly claiming that Putrajaya was involved in a cover-up over the killing of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim, who died three weeks after being seriously injured in a fracas outside a temple in USJ 25 in Subang Jaya on Nov 27.