Law Students Association Protests Malaysia Sedition Arrests

This is great to see and a follow up to our prior story.


The Malaysia Chronicle reports


The Asian Law Students Association (ALSA Malaysia) is outraged and strongly condemns the recent increase in arrests and charges brought by the Royal Malaysian Police Force (PDRM) and the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) under the sedition Act 1948.

The barrage of arrests and charges raise questions as to the sincerity of the Prime Minister’s promise to repeal the Act, which was live telecasted on local stations in July 2012. It further undermines all efforts being undertaken by the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) and Global Movement of Moderates (GMMF) in drafting the National Harmony Bills.

Such an Act violates the right to freedom of expression guaranteed to every Malaysian under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. It provides very minimal defences and holds a very low threshold in determining what is “seditious”. Section 3(1) of the Act vaguely defines what is of seditious tendency. Contrary to normal criminal cases, the proof of intention (mens rea) to any seditious remarks made is unnecessary. Under such circumstances, an accused can be convicted as long as the courts are satisfied with the presence of a seditious remark. It is a relic from a bygone era used to curb communist insurgencies and has been either repealed or put into disuse by modern states.

There are sufficient existing laws under the Penal Code to tackle and criminalise hate speech that puts one at physical harm. In fact, if that is not enough, we can look at the proposed National Unity Bills. The Sedition Act has been in existence for over 60 years and has no function in a democratically maturing society. The recent surge in usage has been highlighted and is seen as a tool to silence dissidents and suppress public opinion.

In 2009, then Bukit Gelugor MP, Karpal Singh was charged for legal comments over the Perak Constitutional Crisis; Early this year, Seputeh MP, Teresa Kok was charged for a politically satirical video clip; Shah Alam MP, Khalid Samad was also charged for suggesting a review to 2 Selangor State Enactments, namely the Enactment on Islamic Laws Administration (Enactment No. 3, 1952) and the Islamic Religion Administration Enactment 2003; Padang Serai MP cum lawyer, N Surendran in August was charged twice for comments made in his capacity as counsel for an ongoing high profiled criminal case. Other opposition politicians being investigated and charged include the likes of Suhaimi Shafie (Sri Muda ADUN), R S N Rayer (Sri Delima ADUN), Thamrin Ghafar Baba (Pas Politician), Tian Chua (Batu MP) and Rafizi Ramli (Pandan MP).

At first glance, it appears as if this Sedition dragnet only affects politicians from the opposition. This however, is not the case as members of all walks of society are also affected. In 2012, Human Rights activist Irene Fernandez was also probed for suggesting ‘Malaysia is unsafe for immigrant workers’; Father Lawrence Andrew in January this year was not spared either. Adam Adli, a well-known student activist was also under the limelight in May this year; Just last month, a secondary schoolboy was investigated under this draconian Act for liking a Facebook page; Just this morning, academician cum law lecturer, Professor Dr Azmi Sharom was charged for comments on the Selangor Menteri Besar Crisis in his capacity as an academician.

As independent and non-partisan members of the legal academic fraternity, these charges are shocking! We urge the Attorney-General to immediately withdraw all charges, impose a moratorium over further usage, and repeal the Act. We also call our members to speak up against any breach of fundamental civil liberties or suppression to academic freedom.

Asian Law Students Association (ALSA) is home to law students all over Asia stretching over 11 countries, In Malaysia, it represents the views of 2,000 law students in at least 12 law schools.

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