Analysts split on axing Sedition Act

Buku Harapan, 100 hari, Pakatan harapan
Abolishing draconian laws was one of the promises in PH’s election manifesto.

KUCHING: Analysts have differed on the debate over abolishing draconian laws, with one warning that the opposition will use Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) failure to do so against it and others cautioning that such laws may still be necessary.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s (Unimas) Jeniri Amir said the PH government could not afford to make another U-turn by not repealing the Sedition Act 1948.

“They have to bite the bullet and repeal the Sedition Act,” he told FMT.

Jeniri Amir.

However, he questioned Putrajaya’s willingness to do so, saying it appears as though it is trying to apply the law to warn Sarawak activists and NGOs not to go overboard in their quest to seek independence for the state.

“Perhaps the prime minister has started to realise the importance of certain aspects of the law to safeguard the country’s sovereignty, especially issues concerning the 3Rs – race, religion and royalty,” he said.

In May, de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong announced that the Sedition Act would be repealed or replaced with a new law, or have its provisions placed under the Penal Code.

However, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Parliament last week that the Sedition Act would be used against those who call for Sarawak’s secession from Malaysia if they jeopardise public order and security.

Awang Azman Awang Pawi.

Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the Sedition Act is still relevant in the context of national security, to protect the country against domestic threats.

He acknowledged that the PH government had promised to abolish all draconian laws, including the Sedition Act, but quoted Mahathir who had said that “the PH manifesto is not a ‘bible’, only a guide”.

Awang Azman said there must be a limit to freedom of speech, especially for those who incite others to create unrest and harm to the country’s administration.

Arnold Puyok.

“There is no absolute freedom in this world. In fact, matters pertaining to certain rights, status, positions, sovereignty, privileges and prerogatives are protected under Part 3 of the Federal Constitution,” he said.

Another political analyst from Unimas, Arnold Puyok, said it would be risky for the federal government to repeal the act completely as the people are not politically mature enough to speak responsibly about sensitive issues.

“The 3Rs are still being discussed and debated, and we have seen people becoming emotional and out of control when discussing related issues.

“The federal government can retain the act but they must use it more judiciously,” he said.