Youth groups urge Pakatan to abolish Sedition Act

Ben Tan
A group of 29 individuals and organisations said that the Sedition Act was cited as one of the tyrannical laws enacted by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government. — Picture by Hari Anggara

JOHOR BARU, Jan 11 — A group of youth and civil liberties organisation has called on the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to fulfill its pledge to abolish oppressive laws, especially the Sedition Act 1948.

The group of 29 individuals and organisations said that the Sedition Act was cited as one of the tyrannical laws enacted by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

“The law that has been strongly opposed by the PH government prior to Malaysia Baru is still enforced today, raising concerns from the public and human rights advocates,” read a joint statement issued by their spokesmen, Challenger Malaysia secretary-general Jean Vaneisha and National Youth Consultative Council member, Iman Ibrahim, who is also a Dewan Muda Johor member.

They pointed out that the PH government had pledged to abolish oppressive laws in its 27th promise of its 14th general election manifesto.

They said it understood the necessity of preserving laws that are essential in maintaining order and support government responses to true threats against our national security and sovereignty but found the Sedition Act to have too many grounds for unreasonable use.

“In a statement published by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Sedition Act is reportedly used in a way that prevents Malaysians from exercising their freedom of speech and expression over different ranges of political opinions and ideas.

“Not only that, the Act outlaws vague offenses that could disproportionately be interpreted as an act of sedition,” said the statement.

In addition, the movement reminded the PH government that the previous promise by the BN government to repeal the Sedition Act only ended with the further strengthening of the Act in 2014; along with the specific inclusion to allow jurisdiction over “electronic” publications and devices.

“This led to a marked rise in its usage. For comparison, in 2013, 10 people were reported to have been investigated. In 2014, 29. In 2015, after amendment of the Act was enforced, 206 people were investigated, including a cartoonist, activists and (then) opposition leaders that spoke out against the previous government.”

The movement said it recognises laws to maintain Malaysia’s national security and order, but said that the Sedition Act has no place in today’s Malaysia Baharu, as it was introduced under the colonial rule to prevent public voices from being heard.

“There are alternative laws to address true threats and actual crimes, such as provided by the Penal Code in Sections 298, 121, 504 and 505, protecting against those with the intention to disrupt the nation’s harmony.

“We remain hopeful that the PH government remembers the abuses of the previous government involving this law.

“We believe that the PH government will be more thoughtful about the checks and balances. That is why we collectively call for an end to all draconian laws that limit the thoughts and expressions of we, the Malaysian people,” said the statement.

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