Rights group questions ‘freedom champions’ now in government over failure to repeal acts

Cops monitor the situation during a protest against Sosma outside the Sungai Buloh prison last August.

PETALING JAYA: The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government must take immediate steps to push ahead with abolishing laws that it previously opposed, said a rights group who rejected the home ministry’s explanation that discussion is still ongoing with the relevant authorities.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) said details on amendments to the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) and the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) – which the government said would be tabled at the next Parliament sitting – were still kept under wraps.

“Why are they still kept secret? Going by the recently tabled amendments to the National Security Council Act 2016, we can have no confidence that these so-called amendments to Sosma and PAA will remove the undemocratic nature of these laws,” said LFL adviser N Surendran.

The home ministry has rejected claims that it is dragging its feet over the abolition of several controversial laws, after it came under criticism from the government’s rights commission Suhakam which suggested that the government appeared to have backtracked on its promise to repeal the acts.

Sosma and PAA are among laws PH promised to repeal or amend, which include the Sedition Act, Communications and Multimedia Act, Prevention of Crime Act (Poca) and Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota).

Months after coming to power, the coalition failed to get Dewan Negara’s support to repeal the Anti-Fake News Act, despite getting approval from the Dewan Rakyat.

Surendran questioned “former champions of civil liberties and press freedom” who are now part of the government.

“Why have they gone silent on the dithering and delaying tactics of the home ministry?” he asked.

“Malaysia cannot call itself a proper or proud democracy while these undemocratic laws remain on the statute books.”

Surendran added that it was time the government tabled a single bill to abolish all the laws it had promised to repeal.

“The government must not try to fool the public by doling out diluted reforms in a piecemeal manner. Our patience is wearing thin. Nothing less than complete repeal of the repressive laws will be acceptable to the millions of Malaysians who voted for change in the historic 14th general election,” he said.