Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH) is extremely disappointed by the government’s decision to charge founder of Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) Eric Paulsen under the Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act. It is highly unacceptabe to hold Eric’ criticism against the government agency – Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) – as a criminal offence, when the right to freedom of expression is rightfully enshrined under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
Criminalising Eric under the Sedition Act further exemplifies the blatant practice of double standards and selective prosecutions by the Attorney-General (AG). The AG, has astonishingly defended Ibrahim Ali’s inflammatory calls to burn Malay and Iban language Bibles, by explaining that the statement has to be read in full context and concluded that he did not have the requisite intention, and therefore, the statement was “non-seditious in nature”. This begs the questions as to why similar treatment was not given to Eric’s case and the plentiful others that were charged under the Sedition Act for comments that were remotely controversial.
Instead, the government has disregarded Eric’s unvarying explanation that he never meant to insult Islam in his tweet and criticising JAKIM should not be construed as insulting the religion. Further, every citizens has the right, perhaps even the duty, to participate in public discourse and to question the conduct of a public body, if the government is ever sincere about improving themselves and to be accountable to the people.
In 2014 alone, SUARAM records a stark increase in the use of Sedition Act, 44 individuals were investigated, charged or convicted under the Act for statement said or published. While statements by critics of the government are labeled as seditious and threats to public order, groups sympathetic to the ruling coalition have been given the free rein to incite hatred and provoke controversial discourse.
It cannot be gainsay that the Attorney-General is not only the State’s chief legal officer, but more importantly, he represents the interests of the general public and is a symbol of criminal justice in the country. The AG’s decision in selective prosecution is a complete violation of its public’s role and merely convicted the widespread belief of political interference and corruption in the chamber.
The Sedition Act is not the answer to maintaining and promoting peace and harmony, but a mere political ploy by the ruling government to intimidate and silence those threatening their status quo. The government should and must propose a new national harmony legislation that is genuine in achieving national freedom, peace and harmony.
GHAH demands the AG to drop sedition charges against Eric and others. We again reiterates our call for the government to repeal the Sedition Act immediately, to drop all sedition charges, and to have no replacement Act with similar draconian provisions.
on behalf of Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan