Muhyiddin says sedition OK for now, but should only be for grave matters

Thasha Jayamanogaran
Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin addresses members of the press at the Prisons Academy in Kajang March 20, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — Sedition investigations can continue, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today despite another Cabinet member’s call to desist pending its abolition.

However, the home minister urged the police to be “circumspect” in using the Sedition Act.

“The police still can use the Act. From the legal aspect, it is still there it has not been abolished or taken to Parliament to be repealed yet.

“The cops have to be more circumspect in using the Act. If they can use other existing law allocation, they should exhaust those laws first, if it’s more appropriate,” he told reporters after attending the Prison Day celebration in Kajang this morning.

Yesterday, de facto law minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong advised the police not to use the controversial colonial-era as the federal government plans to repeal it.

When asked for comment, Muhyiddin said Liew was responding as the law minister.

“But I remember the last Cabinet decision, we decided on a moratorium on the Sedition Act following the Seafield incident... Now I’m not too sure,” he added.

Muhyiddin said sedition should only be used in grave matters, such as incitement of hatred against the monarchy or public institutions.

“Example, if the people hate me or insult my, that’s OK. I won’t take any action Even our prime minister has said the same. If they hate him, that’s not really insulting to us.

“However if it involves the King or other important institutions, that is heavy. So it’s a matter of weightage, that the police should practise,” he said.

In Parliament yesterday, Liew reaffirmed the government’s intention to eliminate the Sedition Act.

He was responding to Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil who asked about the progress of the pledged abolition and whether the police would refrain from applying the law until then.

Liew said the government is evaluating the Sedition Act with the intent of abolishing it and told police to avoid using the law pending the completion of the review.

He added that a related Bill is in preparation and will be finalised soon.

In January, Liew reportedly said the Bill for the abolition of the Act will be tabled as soon as the current meeting of Parliament.

He also said the government will introduce a law to replace the Sedition Act’s functions.

Pakatan Harapan pledged to repeal the Sedition Act in its election manifesto and its commitment to do so remains under watch.

It previously announced a moratorium on the application of the law but lifted this in December, claiming then that exceptional cases required letting the police enforce the Sedition Act in its current form.

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