Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) is perturbed by Home Minister, Hamzah Zainuddin’s announcement that the Sedition Act 1948 is still relevant and would be retained by the Perikatan Nasional government.
The Sedition Act 1948 is an archaic law introduced by the British colonial government in 1948. The act was intended to suppress the voice of Malaysians calling for our independence. Activists and political leaders that championed and fought for our independence were detained under this draconian legislation for challenging a foreign power and the continued existence of this law is an affront to their struggle for an independent Malaysia.
Pakatan Harapan had failed Malaysians when they promised to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 and failed to deliver. However, this failure is not unique to Pakatan Harapan as Barisan Nasional under Najib Razak’s administration made the same vow to Malaysians and the international community during Malaysia’s second Universal Periodic Review in 2013 and failed to fulfil it.
Now Perikatan Nasional (PN) which comprise of Muafakat Nasional and defectors from Pakatan Harapan has superseded its predecessors’ failure by outright refusing to repeal the Sedition Act 1948.
The claims that the Sedition Act 1948 is still relevant is absurd as the Penal Code provides for all the offences described by the Minister. Regardless, national harmony cannot be achieved through the force of law but through long-term education and advocacy by a bi-partisan committee or an equality commission. If PN government is genuinely in improving national harmony, it should cease its rhetoric on the matter and revisit the recommendations by civil societies, SUHAKAM and subject matter experts to address concerns on national harmony, hate speech and discrimination.
Retaining the Sedition Act 1948 can only be interpreted as an intention of the PN government to suppress expression and intimidate human rights defenders and other critics of the administration.