Najib’s replacement for the Sedition Act may be perceived by many Malaysians as an uncreative attempt at seducing them into voting for the BN even though the new law may still harbour undemocratic elements, observes Mustafa K Anuar.
Prime Minister Najib Razak’s recent pronouncement of his government’s intention to replace the draconian Sedition Act with a so-called National Harmony Act predictably has been received by some sections of the general public with cynicism if not derision.
This is not surprising. In the recent past, the promise of a repeal of certain undemocratic laws such as the equally draconian Internal Security Act turned out to be a nightmare for Malaysians, especially human rights activists, as the replacements are either the same or even worse than the laws they replaced.
Soothing sounding names, such as the Peaceful Assembly Act, assigned to the replacements hardly appease Malaysians, particularly civil society groups, as these new laws tend to violate the very essence of human rights.
Worse, like the undemocratic Internal Security Act, the ‘victims’ of the Sedition Act may be left wondering whether they’d still be languishing in detention despite the law under which they were detained having been repealed. In other words, the ugly question here is: on what grounds are the detainees still held by the authorities when the law concerned has been repealed?
The real reason why draconian laws such as the ISA have been repealed, as recently revealed by the prime minister himself, hardly inspires confidence among Malaysians in general. Ordinary Malaysians have been made to understand by the premier that the ISA was repealed because it hasn’t benefited the ruling Barisan Nasional – not because it violates human rights and is therefore unjust.
The Najib administration must take great pains to ensure that the law that replaces the Sedition Act is something that is more liberating and respectful of human rights – rather than merely for the purpose of window-dressing.
Otherwise, the Najib administration might as well call the new law ‘The Seduction Act’. In the context of a nation awaiting the next general election, the replacement legislation may be perceived by many Malaysians as an uncreative attempt at seducing them into voting for the BN even though the new law may still harbour undemocratic elements.
Mustafa K Anuar is secretary of Aliran