The imprisonment of preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin for one year from yesterday is an affront to freedom of expression. He was charged with making seditious remarks on Facebook against the Sultan of Selangor seven years ago.
Freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 10 of our constitution, where every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression.
And the law under which Wan Ji was charged — an archaic law enacted by the colonial authorities of British Malaya in 1948 — only proves that the so-called reform government under Pakatan Harapan (PH) is as evil as the previous administration.
The Sedition Act 1948 was introduced by the British to fight insurgents. What good does it serve in the 21st century? It was used by the previous regime as an oppressive piece of legislation against opposition leaders, journalists and academics.
But now it seems that the current government does not want to be left behind in championing the use of this oppressive law despite its pre-election pledge to abolish it if it came to power, even though the charge was levied against the ustaz in 2014.
To rub salt into the wound, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) decided to cross-appeal for a heavier sentence against him.
This action by the AGC not only casts doubt on the spirit of the reform government but also shows the insensitive attitude towards natural justice.
It has to be stressed here that the lackadaisical attitude of the PH government towards abolishing oppressive laws such as the Sedition Act 1948 has led to gross injustice against the scholar.
As a Muslim scholar, Wan Ji has the right to voice his opinion against something deemed un-Islamic, even if it might ruffle some feathers among the monarchy.
The fact remains that monarchs are not beyond reproach. Any criticism against them without jeopardising national security or public order should not be criminalised. Otherwise it may be deemed as suppression of fundamental rights that are enshrined in our constitution.
We at the Islamic Renaissance Front stand firm with Wan Ji and strongly urge the PH government to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 and other draconian laws such as the Security Offences Special Measures Act (Sosma) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) immediately.
The laws in a new Malaysia should be consistent and at a par with international human rights standards, and nothing less.
Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa is founder and director of the Islamic Renaissance Front.
The views expressed by the writer are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.