Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) is appalled by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement about the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948.
The Sedition Act 1948 is a colonial heritage that has restricted freedom of expression throughout its existence and continues to harass human rights defenders and political activists today. The Barisan Nasional administration itself recognised the flawed nature of the act and promised to repeal it during the Third Universal Periodic Review for Malaysia.
Although BN later retracted that position for its political interest, the spirit behind the repeal of the act did not disappear with the coalition’s ‘U-turn’.
Since the transition of power on 9 May 2018, Suaram and other civil society groups have consistently called for and advocated a moratorium on draconian laws that continue to repress Malaysian every day. The key reasoning behind this call is that legal reform is a lengthy process, which could potentially take months if not years before it can be fully implemented and internalised.
The moratorium was meant to put an end to the application of these laws while the administration put in place the necessary legal reform required in the long run. Without any moratorium and no clear directive or position adopted by the cabinet on the matter, it is unsurprising that enforcement agencies, especially the police, continue to use the Sedition Act and other draconian laws in clear violation of human rights, making a mockery of Pakatan Harapan’s commitment to human rights reforms as promised in Buku Harapan.
The position or the lack of position by the Pakatan Harapan administration was questionable in May and is now untenable, making a mockery of Malaysians’ aspirations for change. It is time for the Pakatan Administration to stop passing on responsibilities and take action.
Suaram reiterates its call for a moratorium against draconian law as outlined in the civil groups’ joint statement (https://www.suaram.net/2018/05/17/implement-moratorium-on-the-use-of-draconian-laws-as-sign-of-commitment-to-human-rights/) and Suaram’s submission to the Institutional Reform Committee.
Sevan Doraisamy is executive director of Suaram.