Just abolish Sedition Act, no need for replacement, says legal fraternity

Fortify Rights legal director Eric Paulsen says the legislation is archaic, repressive and belongs in the dustbin of history.

PETALING JAYA: Lawyers have called for the outright abolishment of the Sedition Act, saying there is no need for a replacement either.

Malaysian representative to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) Eric Paulsen said the legislation was archaic, repressive “and belongs in the dustbin of history together with other colonial era laws”.

“It is a mark of shame for any independent nation to continue having colonial era legislation like the Sedition Act that was used to suppress freedom fighters and civil liberties,” he said in a series of tweets yesterday.

Paulsen said while it was well established that freedom of speech was not absolute, the threshold must nonetheless be high.

“Any restriction must be necessary, proportionate and provided by law on legitimate grounds,” he said.

Paulsen was responding to reports of de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong saying the Act was expected to be repealed this year, with the Cabinet having approved it.

After the abolition of the Act, Liew reportedly said, a new formula would be introduced to replace it.

N Surendran.

Meanwhile, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) adviser N Surendran said the repeal was long overdue, noting that the repeal of the Act had been promised in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) manifesto.

“The Cabinet decision now merely confirms it and was inevitable. Many PH leaders and others fell victim to the Sedition Act under Barisan Nasional. It would be absurd for PH to preserve this Act,” he said.

Surendran, who has been fighting for the Act to be repealed, was also of the view that there was no need to replace the Sedition Act, and that sedition, as a crime, must be removed from the nation’s statute books forever.

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri.

“It is undemocratic and against freedom of speech. Most democratic countries have gotten rid of this pernicious law. There are enough laws under the Penal Code to deal with any statements that may cause mischief or public alarm,” he said.

Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, or C4, legal research officer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said there were no two ways about the Sedition Act.

“The Sediton Act must go, there’s no question about it. But, the government must be reminded that they are not immune to criticism,” she said.

Fadiah expressed concern over the move to draft a new formula, and, like Surendran, was of the view that there were sufficient laws to deal with defamation.

“There are also provisions to deal with incitement to violence. Criticism of the government, no matter how harsh, should never be criminalised. This is how a genuine democracy works,” she added.