More than two dozen NGOs from across Asia have written to Prime Minister Najib Razak to express serious concern over the Malaysian government’s clampdown on freedom of expression using the Sedition Act 1948.
Dato’ Sri Mohammed Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak
Prime Minister of Malaysia
Mr. Prime Minister,
We, the undersigned civil society organisations across Asia, write to you to register our serious concern over the Malaysian government’s ongoing wave of arrests, interrogations, and charges against individuals under the Sedition Act 1948.
No less than 14 individuals are currently facing charges under the Sedition Act, in addition to six others who are being investigated under the Act. (The list of these individuals are annexed to this letter.) The latest of these include Susan Loone, a Malaysiakini journalist, who was arrested and interrogated on 3 September 2014 under the Sedition Act over a news article she authored.
Earlier, on 2 September 2014, Azmi Sharom, an associate professor of law at the University of Malaya, was charged under the Act over a recent legal opinion he made on a political and constitutional crisis that occurred in 2009 in the state of Perak.
Most recently, on 8 September 2014, Ali Abdul Jalil, a social activist, was charged on three different counts under the Sedition Act on the very same day.
The past week also saw the conviction of Safwan Anang, former chairperson of the Solidarity Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM), who on 5 September 2014 was sentenced to 10 months in prison under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act for allegedly urging the public to topple the government.
We are alarmed that the Sedition Act, an archaic piece of legislation that was originally used to suppress dissent during the colonial era, is not only still in place in Malaysia, but is now being used indiscriminately by the current Malaysian government to stifle democratic space in the country. Under the vague and overbroad provisions of the Sedition Act, almost any kind of speech may be criminalised, making it open to blatant abuses by the government. Such a repressive law certainly has no place in any modern democratic society.
Mr. Prime Minister,
We recall the pledges that you made on 11 July 2012 and again on 3 July 2013 to abolish the Sedition Act. In addition to these pledges, you also just days ago further reaffirmed the same as recent as 5 September 2014. We certainly welcome these statements of commitment to abolish the Sedition Act, which demonstrate your acknowledgement of the problematic nature of the law. However, these statements have remained empty pledges. More alarmingly, the government has not only failed to deliver on its pledges to repeal the Act, but has in fact increased the use of the law.
We thus echo the overwhelming calls made by both the international community and Malaysians, including 128 Malaysian civil society groups, for the repeal of the Sedition Act. We further urge your government to end the current wave of crackdown by dropping all pending charges under the Sedition Act and cease the pursuance of cases that are being investigated under the Act.
The repeal of the Sedition Act must be treated as a matter of top priority by your government. In the meantime, a moratorium on the use of the Act must be observed to demonstrate its sincerity in honouring its pledges and to prove its commitment towards democratic principles.
We thank you for your attention.
1. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia)
2. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) Malaysia
3. Southeast Asia Press Alliance (Seapa)
4. The Solidarity for Asians’ People Advocacies (Sapa) Working Group on ASEAN
5. Southeast Asian Committee for Advocacy (Seaca)
6. The Law, Basic Rights and Justice Foundation (HAK Association)
7. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
8. Law and Society Trust (LST)
9. Informal Sector Service Center (Insec)
10. Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia/YLBHI)
11. Globe International Center
12. Think Centre (Singapore)
13. Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com, UK
14. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
15. ELD Training, Nepal
16. Commission of the Disappearances and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
17. People’s Watch
18. Maldivian Democracy Network
19. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (Licadho)
20. Commonwealth Human Right Initiative
21. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP)
22. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (Masum)
23. Taiwan Association for Human Rights
24. Centre for Human Rights and Development
25. Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial)
26. Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma)
Individuals who are facing charges under the Sedition Act:
1. David Orok – Member, Sabah Reform Party (4 July 2014)
2. Azmi Sharom – Law Lecturer, University of Malaya (2 September 2014)
3. N. Surendran – Lawyer, Padang Serai Member of Parliament (19 August 2014)
4. Khalid Samad – Member of Parliament for Shah Alam (26 August 2014)
5. RSN Rayer – Lawyer, State Assemblyperson for Seri Delima (27 August 2014)
6. Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman – President, Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (20 June 2014)
7. Teresa Kok – Member of Parliament for Seputeh (6 May 2014)
8. Chua Tian Chang – Member of Parliament for Batu (May 2013)
9. Hishamuddin Rais – Social Activist (May 2013)
10. Adam Adli – Student Activist (May 2013)
11. Safwan Anang – Student Activist (May 2013)
12. Haris Ibrahim – Social Activist (May 2013)
13. Tamrin Tun Abdul Ghafar – Student Activist (May 2013)
14. MD Shuhaimi Shafie – State Assemblyperson for Sri Muda (May 2013)
Individuals who are being investigated under the Sedition Act:
1. Viktor Wong – Activist, Parti Rakyat Malaysia (4 September 2014)
2. Susan Loone – Journalist, Malaysiakini (4 September 2014)
3. Hassan Karim – Lawyer, Parti Keadilan Rakyat Johor Vice-Chairperson (29 August 2014)
4. Rafizi Ramli – Member of Parliament for Pandan (28 August 2014)
5. 17-year-old schoolboy (name withheld) (August 2014)
6. Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin – State Assemblyperson for Changkat Jering (25 August 2014)