Immediate moratorium on use of Sedition Act crucial, pending repeal

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The Malaysian Bar is heartened by Minister of Communications and Multimedia Gobind Singh Deo’s statement that the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 “should take place at the next [current] sitting of Parliament”.

The recent spate of investigations involving allegedly seditious acts has been disquieting and calls into question the Pakatan Harapan government’s commitment to “Promise 27” of its election manifesto, namely to abolish laws that it has itself described as “oppressive” and “tyrannical” — with the Sedition Act being first on its list.

While not condoning rude, insulting or disrespectful behaviour, the Malaysian Bar calls upon the government to uphold the primacy of the right to freedom of speech and expression, in abidance with Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution.

We welcome Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement on 4 October 2018 that the authorities must stop arresting people who insult him, as “[a] politician must accept criticism, being called names.” We also welcome Deputy Home Affairs Minister’s Mohd Azis bin Jamman’s clarification that he does not agree with the use of the Sedition Act.

The Malaysian Bar recognises that the journey of undertaking law reform requires great care, attention and time. It is therefore of utmost importance that the government immediately imposes a moratorium on the use of the Sedition Act pending its repeal, and that the police cease all investigations pursuant to the Sedition Act.

The Malaysian Bar further urges the government to prioritise its efforts to repeal this and all other draconian and oppressive legislation in the [current] session of Parliament.

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Quick and decisive action will enhance public confidence in the Government’s commitment to pursuing transformation and greater civil liberties through legislative reforms.

George Varughese is president of the Malaysian Bar

8 October 2018

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