Lawyers for Liberty refer to the statement yesterday by Bukit Aman that politician Xavier Jayakumar is being investigated under the Sedition Act and Section 233(1) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) over remarks he made relating to the Parliament sitting.
Both these laws should not have been resorted to by the authorities. They are oppressive legislation and are harmful to the right to free speech.
It was in recognition of the troubling nature of these laws that the former Pakatan Harapan government had promised in their election manifesto to repeal the Sedition Act and amend the CMA.
However, despite holding federal power between May 2018 and February 2020, the former PH government took no steps to repeal or amend both these laws, contrary to the promise in its Buku Harapan. As a result these laws continue to be available to be used against alleged wrongdoers.
Both Section 4(1) Sedition Act and Section 233(1) CMA are drafted in wide terms, leading to ambiguity to what is or is not an offence under these laws. This has a chilling effect on free speech.
Further, the Sedition Act is a notorious pre-independence legislation, which has long been criticised by the Bar Council and human rights bodies.
We understand that, unlike the former PH govt, the new Perikatan Nasional government is not bound by any manifesto. Nevertheless, we urge the new government to seriously consider the repeal of the Sedition Act and the amendment of the CMA.
Meanwhile, we strongly urge the authorities to discontinue the probe into Xavier Jayakumar under the Sedition Act and the CMA.
We also urge the new government to place a moratorium on all investigations under the Sedition Act and Section 233(1) CMA pending their repeal/amendment.
Zaid Malek is legal coordinator of Lawyers for Liberty