Drop Sedition Charge Against Surendran

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) calls on the Attorney General to stop the abuse of the archaic Sedition Act and drop the prosecution of Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PKR) vice president, member of parliament of Padang Serai and Anwar Ibrahim’s lawyer N. Surendran.

Surendran was accused of sedition in a news release titled “Court of Appeal’s Fitnah 2 Written Judgement is Flawed, Defensive & Insupportable” released on Malaysiakini, 18 April 2014. In his words, Surendran had allegedly accused Prime Minister Najib as part the political conspiracy in Datuk Seri Anwar Imbrahim’s second sodomy conviction.

In protecting freedom of opinion and expression and public interest, government officials and politicians including the Prime Minister Najib Razak should stop using draconian laws such as the Sedition Act to disparage public criticism.

Instead, the prime minister should exercise his right to reply and counter the allegations in public. We believe his statement will receive wide coverage in the media. Public members will be able to judge for themselves the rights from the wrongs.

By using the Sedition Act  – a draconian law that is a relic of colonial authoritarianism, against those that expresses their opinions and views on the government, this will risk stifling freedom of expression that is vital in checking abuses of the government in a functioning democracy.

The Sedition Act is loosely worded and vested vast powers in the authorities at the expense of freedom of the right to freedom of speech and expression. The act criminalises speech with “seditious tendency”, which is defined broadly, including “bring to hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the government.”

If convicted, the Padang Serai MP could be jailed up to 3 years or fined RM5,000 or both. Surendran would also risk losing his political career if the fine is more than RM2,000 or jailed more than a year. This will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

The Prime Minister Najib Razak has made a pledge on July 2012 and later on June 2013 during his speech in BBC World News Programme that he is committed to repeal the Sedition Act and to replace it with National Harmony Act. This in itself is an admission that the Sedition Act is draconian and obsolete.

Despite the promise of the prime minister, the government continued to use regularly the Sedition Act to make arrestment and to curtail freedom of expression in the name of maintaining harmony. Those arrested and charged under the Sedition Act thus far include student activists Adam Adli, Safwan Anang and Khalid Ismath, civil society activist Hishamuddin Rais, Anything But UMNO (AbU) leader Haris Ibrahim, PAS Batu Berendam MP Tamrin Ghafar, PKR vice-president and Batu MP Chua Tian Chang, DAP Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, and the late DAP chairman and human rights lawyer Karpal Singh.

A law that is pending for repeal should not be used anymore by the government. We call on the prime minister to walk his talk and repeal the Sedition Act immediately.

 

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Yap Swee Seng

Executive Director