Call for commission of inquiry into Sedition Act abuses under Najib

N Surendran.

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyers for Liberty today urged the government to form a commission of inquiry to investigate and recommend appropriate action on the “massive abuse” of the Sedition Act under the Najib Razak administration.

Its adviser N Surendran said in a statement that the Najib administration was guilty of the “worst abuses of the Sedition Act 1948 in the history of independent Malaysia”.

“The abuse of the sedition law under Najib was so extreme that it warrants an investigation for abuse of power against Najib, former attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail, former IGP Khalid Bakar and all other officials who were complicit in the sedition rampage.”

He said Najib’s “unprecedented” Sedition crackdown became the darkest period for freedom of expression in the history of the nation.

Therefore, he said, the former prime minister Najib Razak should not give the impression that his administration was more restrained or lenient than the Pakatan Harapan in using the Sedition Act 1948.

He was commenting on a Facebook posting yesterday in which Najib spoke about the use of the Sedition Act against Umno Supreme Council member Lokman Noor Adam over remarks he had made regarding investigations into the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim who died on Dec 17 after sustaining injuries in a fracas at the Seafield Maha Mariamman Temple in Subang Jaya.

Najib had said that during his premiership, many opposition leaders such as Lim Kit Siang had tried to link his administration to the deaths of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Kevin Morais and Hussain Najadi but he never had them arrested under the Sedition Act or made them spend a night in the lockup.

Surendran described Najib’s claim as “hypocritical, preposterous and outright false”.

“In the last Najib government of 2013-2018, more people were arrested, investigated or charged for alleged sedition than in the entire 55 years of post-Merdeka Malaysia prior to that.

“Najib’s administration charged more people for Sedition than the previous administrations of Tunku (Abdul Rahman), Tun Razak (Hussein), Hussein Onn, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Mahathir Mohamad put together!

“From an infrequently invoked law under previous PMs, sedition investigations and charges became routine under Najib.”

Surendran said in just three years – between 2013 and 2016 – during Najib’s last administration, there was an all-time record of about 170 sedition cases.

In 2015 alone, 91 people were arrested, investigated or charged for sedition. This was about five times more than the entire total for the previous 55 years of the law’s existence, he claimed.

“Worse, under Najib’s government, the Sedition Act was amended in 2015 to provide for harsher punishments including a minimum prison term. The law was indiscriminately used by the Najib regime to terrorise and silence the opposition, civil society and the public.”

Najib, in his FB post, “attempted to blatantly mislead the public by selectively giving the example of Lim Kit Siang who was investigated for sedition when Najib was PM, but was not charged. Najib used this example to suggest that he was lenient. But what about the hundreds of others who were detained and charged for sedition under Najib? Why is there no mention by Najib of these many other cases?

“This includes my own Sedition cases, in which I was twice charged for sedition in 2014 merely for criticising the Sodomy 2 court judgment and for implicating Najib in a political conspiracy against Anwar Ibrahim.”

Surendran said lawyers, activists, MPs, opposition politicians, academics, journalists, and ordinary members of the public became victims of the Sedition Act under Najib.