Over the past months, there has been an alarming increase in investigations and prosecutions under the Sedition Act 1948, whose targets have included elected representatives and human rights activists who have a public duty to speak on matters of public interest.
Since 27th of July 2015, two opposition members of Parliament and five activists have been charged under this law. Since 2013, there has been an increase of 1,700 percent in sedition charges compared to the period between 2007 and 2012.
It is undeniable that the Sedition Act is too broadly defined and open to abuse. Under the Sedition Act, almost anything said or published that is remotely contentious can be deemed seditious.
The Prime Minister had on 11th of July 2012 and 3rd of July 2013 promised to repeal the Sedition Act. It is disappointing and disturbing that despite these repeated promises to the Malaysian public, the usage of the Act has greatly increased until today.
Your position as the Attorney-General is created by the Federal Constitution, and we urge you to play the role as the guardian of the Federal Constitution at all times. Continued usage of the Sedition Act will do little to regain public confidence in the office of the Attorney-General.
It is also a matter of grave concern to us that most of those charged are from the opposition, civil society, dissidents or those seen to be pro-opposition. Actions were swiftly taken against them including arrest, remand and in many cases, criminal prosecutions, for example in the cases of Adam Adli, Tian Chua, Tamrin Ghafar, Haris Ibrahim, Safwan Anang, Hishamuddin Rais, N.Surendran, Khalid Samad, RSN Rayer, Azmi Sharom, Wan Ji Wan Hussin, Eric Paulsen and Zunar.
On the other hand, individuals who have made incredibly provocative and inflammatory statements but happened to be UMNO or pro-UMNO individuals, such as Ibrahim Ali, Masitah Ibrahim, Jamal Yunos, Ismail Sabri and Mohd Ali Baharom (better known as Ali Tinju, his sedition charge was withdrawn) just to name a few, were not prosecuted. Since you have taken office on 27th of July 2015, we note the following sedition charges have been instituted:
Mohd Fakhrulrazi Mohd Mokhtar, Parti Amanah Negara Youth Chief;
Khalid Mohd Ismath, Activist (3 sedition charges; 11 charges under section 233 Communications and Multimedia Act 1998);
R. Sivarasa, PKR MP and lawyer;
Ng Wei Aik, DAP MP;
Lawrence Jayaraj, Activist;
Hassan Karim, Johor PKR chief & lawyer (4 sedition charges);
S. Arutchelvan, PSM leader.
We note that the continuous usage of the Sedition Act has placed our nation in a negative light globally and opened us up for international criticism. Most modern and democratic states in the world have either repealed or put such oppressive laws into disuse.
We further note that the majority of the above cases deal with criticisms of the government or of the administration of justice which have been repealed under the 2015 amendments. The Attorney-General carries a heavy responsibility in upholding the rule of law by providing the State with an independent and professional public prosecution service that operates with integrity, inspires public confidence and safeguards the administration of justice.
We call for:
All existing sedition charges to be reviewed and dropped immediately;
A moratorium on any further sedition charges pending a full review of the Sedition Act and its eventual abolishment;
That the office of the Attorney-General acknowledges the Sedition Act’s antiquated, illiberal and undemocratic nature and the lack of the intention element in the offence is in breach of basic principles of fairness and justice.