[GHAH] – Memorandum: Withdraw amendments which make the Sedition Act a harsher tool of oppression

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Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH) have come together to express in the strongest terms our opposition to the amendments to the Sedition Act 1948.

We view the proposed changes as a major setback to fundamental liberties and rule of law, the latest in the series of assaults on the nation’s democracy.

The way in which this amendment bill is enacted is nothing short of deplorable. It was done in secret, without consulting opposition members of Parliament, and stakeholders such as civil society and the Malaysian Bar.

Its introduction to members of Parliament yesterday for debate today leaves little room for a robust discussion and critique of this important piece of legislation, a modus operandi used liberally by the BN-led government of late.

The repeal of the “seditious tendency” provisions against the government and the administration of justice in the Act is a small improvement.

However, the rest of the amendments do not address other problematic provisions found in the Act.

In fact, if passed, the amendments fortify the already draconian law with harsh and disproportionate punishment. It further straitjackets legitimate criticisms by enlarging the definition of what is seditious.

We deplore the Bill for these reasons:

  1. The explanatory statement, citing an increase of harmful and malicious comments attacking our tolerant and plural society as the reason for the Act’s continued relevance, is misleading. It is the government which has been tacitly supporting extremist behaviour and using the Act to clamp down on opposition politicians, academics, lawyers, dissidents, journalists, and others, to make certain issues off limits, stifle civil liberties and create a climate of fear reminiscent of the worst days under the iron-fisted Mahathir regime.
  2. It is disrespectful of the Federal Court, which is currently hearing the challenge by law lecturer Assoc Prof Azmi Sharom on the constitutionality of the Sedition Act 1948.
  3. The inclusion of “religion” as an additional ground for seditious tendency is unwarranted; there are sufficient provisions in the Penal Code to cover hate speech relating to religion.
  4. The increased punishment from a fine of not more than RM5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 3 years, to a harsher punishment: mandatory imprisonment between 3 to 7 years, thus taking away the courts’ sentencing discretion and ensuring offenders are punished harshly.
  5. Creation of “aggravated” sedition for offences leading to bodily injuries or damage to property and is punishable with imprisonment for a term between 5 and 20 years. This provision seems tenuous and unusual and would be better dealt with under the Penal Code;
  6. Non-granting of bail when charged for “aggravated” sedition cases;
  7. Requirement to surrender one’s passport and being prevented from leaving Malaysia when charged for “ordinary” sedition cases;
  8. Prohibitory order to prevent access to any electronic device if one has made a seditious publication; fine up to RM5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 3 years if one breaches the order;
  9. Failure to remove prohibited publication by electronic means can be fined up to RM5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 3 years;
  10. Courts can authorise sites to be blocked if anonymous seditious comments cannot be identified.
  11. Legitimate demands for secession are used as an illustration of what is considered seditious; this is against the right to self-determination.

The proposed amendments are absolutely scandalous and disproportionately punish mere “speech offences” with no real victims, unlike common crimes like robbery or murder.

We too believe that freedom of speech is not absolute. However, the threshold for curbing freedom of speech – e.g. incitement to violence and hate speech – must be high to ensure legitimate criticisms and political dissent are not criminalised.

This archaic law, which Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged to repeal in July 2012 and has since reneged on that promise, has no place in a modern and democratic Malaysia that we aspire to be.

Given that legitimate secession calls will be classified as seditious, we especially call upon the elected representatives from Sabah and Sarawak to speak up and help put a stop to this Bill.

We urge the government to immediately withdraw the amendments on the Sedition Act 1948; impose a moratorium over its further use; and work towards its abolishment.

 

Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH)

 

JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT – Gangster-like arrests point to police state in the making

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) and the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) condemn the gangster-like tactics of the police in arresting social activists and politicians who were involved in the Kita Lawan peaceful gatherings in Kuala Lumpur last week.

1.    On 26 March, DBKL and plainclothed police officers beat up those who were at Dataran Merdeka to collect signatures for the Free Anwar campaign, a 70-year-old woman was among those assaulted. Six persons, including Perak state assembly representative Chang Lih Kang, were arrested and remanded for four days.

2.    On 27 March, armed masked men abducted social activist Hishamuddin Rais as he was alighting from a taxi at Dataran Merdeka. It was only when a police report was made over the shocking incident witnessed by Kita Lawan participants that the police revealed that Hishamuddin was being held at the Dang Wangi police station.

3.    On 28 March, the day the Kita Lawan ‘wedding procession’ was to take place in KL in the afternoon, police arrested PAS Deputy President Mohamad Sabu in Penang at 12.20am.

4.    On 28 March, soon after the Kita Lawan ‘wedding procession’, three people, including PKR Supreme Council member Fariz Musa, were arrested; the other two were released the same day.

5.    On 29 March, at 3.20am, police, allegedly armed with M16 guns, arrested Selangor MP Khalid Samad at his home in Shah Alam after he participated in the KL procession.

There have also been other arrests a few days in the days running up to the Kita Lawan gatherings. When some 100 activists led by Parti Sosialis Malaysia staged a visit to the customs headquarters in Kelana Jaya to demand answers regarding the Goods and Services Tax, 80 were arrested. Three others were later arrested at a solidarity vigil.

In total, within the last one week, 97 persons were arrested. This is a worrying indication of a police state in the making.

Civil society denounces the brute force and heavy-handed action by police. It is even more disgusting when Inspector General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar defended his hardline “no tolerance” stance on the Kita Lawan rallies, supported by Home Affairs Minister Zahid Hamidi.

The IGP was quoted as saying, “We will take actions against individuals trying to ‘incite’ others in not respecting the system.” Yet the police can look away when pro-BN demonstrators held rallies, e.g. outside the Penang government offices or at the DAP headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

The IGP has targeted social activists and certain politicians in his scheme of mass arrests, compromising the position of the Royal Malaysian Police as a neutral enforcer of the law. Such selective actions on his part must be condemned in the strongest manner.

What is even more insidious is Zahid’s announcement of the return of detention without trial under a so-called new law, Prevention of Terrorism Act. This law will bring back the dark ages of the Internal Security Act, under the guise of combating terrorists. Such a law must be resisted and rejected as it will be open to abuse by law enforcers that are acting with impunity.

We therefore call upon the government to:

1.    halt all politically motivated arrests. All charges and investigations against the Kita Lawan and Anti-GST protesters must be dropped;

2.    sack the IGP with immediate effect as he has abused his position of power and acted in violation of the rights and freedoms guaranteed to citizens under the Federal Constitution;

3.    withdraw the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Parliament as this law would bring back detention without trial, which runs against the grain of natural justice and fairness; and

4.    establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) without further delay to restore confidence in the Royal Malaysia Police.

 

Issued by SUARAM and the BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee

Kematian Ke-6 Tahun 2015, Hasil Bedah Siasat Perlu Didedahkan Kepada Orang Awam

Pada 13 Mac 2015 yang lepas, satu kes kematian dalam tahanan telah berlaku di Lokap Berpusat Ipoh. Mangsa bernama Mohd Zafari Mohd Yunus direman sejak 5 Mac 2015 (Khamis) sehingga perbicaraan selesai. Beliau ditahan atas tuduhan melakukan rompakan pada tahun 2013. Pada 12 Mac 2015 (Khamis), tahanan telah disabitkan kesalahan oleh mahkamah dan dijatuhkan hukuman penjara lapan tahun dan tiga kali sebatan.

Selepas hukuman dijatuhkan tahanan telah dibawa semula ke lokap. Pada hari yang sama, pada jam 3.15 petang mangsa dikatakan telah jatuh semasa ke tandas dan mengalami kecederaan di bahagian belakang kepala. Mangsa seterusnya dikejarkan ke Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun untuk diberikan rawatan. Bagaimanapun pada keesokkannya iaitu 13 Mac 2015 (Jumaat) jam 1.25 pagi tahanan telah menghembuskan nafas terakhir.

Mengikut laporan Ketua Jabatan Siasatan Jenayah Perak (CID), Datuk Mohd Dzuraidi Ibrahim mengklasifisikan kematian ini sebagai kematian secara tiba-tiba sementara menunggu siasatan lanjut. Hasil siasatan awal menyatakan kecederaan disebabkan jatuh dan sirosis hati.

Ahli keluarga telah membuat satu laporan polis dan turut membuat permohonan untuk melihat kamera lingkaran tertutup (CCTV) di dalam lokap dan pihak polis mengakui terdapat kamera di dalamnya. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) berharap agar pihak polis menjadikan CCTV sebagai salah satu daripada prosedur siasatan dan pihak keluarga berhak untuk menonton rakaman tersebut.

Kebiasaannya apabila berlaku kes kematian dalam tahanan, pihak polis akan mengeluarkan kenyataan berkaitan hasil siasatan awal kes dan menyatakan bedah siasat akan dijalankan. Bagaimanapun, pihak polis tidak mengeluarkan kenyataan berkaitan hasil bedah siasat yang dilakukan kepada setiap mangsa kematian dalam tahanan.

Adalah sangat baik sekiranya pihak polis memaklumkan kepada orang awam berkaitan hasil siasatan terkini berkaitan kematian dalam tahanan, khususnya keputusan laporan bedah siasat. Ini demi mengelakkan daripada berlakunya penipuan dan kekaburan maklumat.

Ini pernah terjadi dalam kes yang berlaku kepada Syed Mohd Azlan, apabila Datuk Hasnan Hassan mengatakan kematian dalam tahanan adalah secara tiba-tiba tetapi dalam sijil kematian yang dikeluarkan pihak Hospital Sultan Ismail tertulis si mati mati disebabkan hentakan benda tumpul di dada dan bukan mati secara tiba-tiba.

SUARAM menggesa agar pihak polis berlaku telus dalam setiap kes kematian dalam tahan yang berlaku. Tindakan pihak polis tidak bercakap benar atau memberikan maklumat yang sahih adalah sesuatu yang tidak berintegriti dan tidak bertanggungjawab.

Untuk sebarang pertanyaan atau maklumat lanjut sila hubungi:

Tarmizi Anuwar – Koordinator Hak Untuk Keadilan, SUARAM melalui +60136848313 atau [email protected]