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The arrest and remand of Badrul Hisham Shaharin are acts of repressive intimidation. It demonstrates that the unity government is no different from previous administrations in continuing to arbitrarily weaponise the Sedition Act against its dissenters, especially the political opposition. Even the commitment made in July last year by Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim to only limit use of the Sedition Act to criticisms involving the Rulers’ position has been reneged at least seven times to date, with investigations and charges on statements that are about the Pardons Board’s authorisation, Malaysia-Israeli relations, the judiciary, and also notably the unity government’s establishment and Anwar himself. Let us not forget that repealing the Sedition Act was also the promise made by the Pakatan Harapan coalition in their election manifesto – which was then broken.

Prohibition of ‘insults’ to public figures because of their status fundamentally contradicts the principle that government should by right be subject to public scrutiny and criticism. This principle is also especially crucial in cases of unelected heads of state including monarchs, who cannot otherwise be held accountable by citizens. Thus, by continuing to enforce the Sedition Act, the government is also actively hindering Malaysia from progressing to not only become a true democracy, but also fully live up to transparency and accountability standards which many Malaysians have demanded for.

The public will never be able to enjoy the basic right of having free, diverse and meaningful discourse on various issues of public interest as stipulated in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, as long as criminalisation via the Sedition Act in the name of claiming ownership of truth remains the status quo. Repeal the Sedition Act.

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