No need for rulers’ consent to abolish Sedition Act, says lawyers group

Lawyers for Liberty says Parliament has both the power and duty to repeal or amend laws in the country.

PETALING JAYA: A lawyers group today refuted claims that the Sedition Act 1948 cannot be abolished without consent from the Conference of Rulers, and that to even call for its abolition is itself seditious.

N Surendran.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) said such claims were a “gross misunderstanding and misreading” of both the Sedition Act and the Federal Constitution.

“The Sedition Act 1948 is an ordinary legislation which can be repealed by a simple majority in Parliament, and without the consent of the Conference of Rulers,” LFL adviser N Surendran said in a statement.

Surendran was responding to lawyer Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman, who said yesterday that it was seditious to call for the abolition of the act unless it was agreed to by the Conference of Rulers ahead of time.

Abdul Aziz had been involved in drafting amendments to the Sedition Act following the events of May 13, 1969.

He said the Sedition Act was enacted under Article 10(4) of the Federal Constitution and could not be repealed or amended without consent from the rulers and a two-third majority in Parliament.

However, Surendran said this was impossible as the constitution itself did not exist when the Sedition Act was enacted by the British colonialists in 1948.

“The constitution only came into existence nine years later in 1957,” he said.

If, he added, the Sedition Act had been enacted under a specific provision of the constitution, it would be reflected in the preamble to the act.

“However, no where in the Sedition Act does it state that it is a law made under Article 10(4).

“Article 63(4) of the constitution, in categorising the Sedition Act separately from laws passed under Article 10(4), also makes it crystal clear that the Sedition Act is not made under Article 10(4).”

Surendran also took Abdul Aziz to task over his claim that the Sedition Act is an “extraordinary piece of legislation”, saying there is neither legal nor historical basis for this.

“Far from being an ‘extraordinary’ law, it is actually an inferior colonial law that was never passed by our Parliament,” he said.

He added that Parliament had both the power and duty to repeal or amend laws, meaning that it could never be seditious for citizens to call for the abolishment of any law, including the Sedition Act.

“Abdul Aziz’s argument that by virtue of Section 3(1) (f) of the Sedition Act, it would be seditious to move to abolish the law, is misguided and laughable.

“Section 3(1) (f) only states that it is seditious to ‘question matters’ on citizenship, national language, the special position of the Malays or the rulers’ sovereignty. To abolish or call for the abolition of the Sedition Act does not in any way ‘question’ the above-stated matters, and hence cannot be seditious.”

He also accused Abdul Aziz of ignoring the effect of Article 10(1) (a) of the constitution which guarantees citizens’ right to freedom of speech, including the call for or move to abolish any law.

“It is fundamental that the constitution must be read as a whole, and not in piecemeal fashion like Abdul Aziz and others like him have done.”