Rights groups praise move to abolish Sedition Act
Saturday, 13 October 2018

The Star

PETALING JAYA: Rights groups have lauded the Cabinet’s agreement to a moratorium on the Sedition Act and called for the law to be repealed as soon as possible.

Amnesty International Malaysia said the moratorium on cases under the Act should lead to its abolition as promised by the Pakatan Harapan government.

“The announcement is a step forward in promoting freedom of expression in the country.

“The Sedition Act has been enforced for far too long and used to stifle free speech in the country,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo on Thursday said he had presented the proposal for a moratorium on the Act at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

He said a decision was made to temporarily suspend the Act, since the government would abolish the law.

The repeal of the Act, said the minister, would take place at the next Parliament meeting.

Amnesty said the government must take swift action in tabling the repeal of the law in the next Parliament meeting which begins next week.

“Along with calling for the Sedition Act’s full abolition, we are urging the government to drop all pending charges under this repressive law immediately and without condition,” it said.

The international human rights group said it was high time as well for the government to amend or repeal what it described as other similarly repressive laws.

They are the Communications and Multimedia Act, the Peaceful Assembly Act, and the Security Offences and Special Measures Act.

These laws, Amnesty claimed, have been used to target peaceful human rights defenders and government critics.

Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) executive director Cynthia Gabriel said the moratorium of the Sedition Act was welcome news.

“Do not replace the Act with another Act of similar objectives later in the future,” said Gabriel.

Lawyer Datuk Roger Tan said the moratorium must be enforced immediately so that all prosecutions and investigations currently pursued under the Act would cease immediately.

“This will also show that the government is sincere and committed to finally removing this antiquated and draconian piece of legislation left by our colonial masters,” said Tan.

Bersih 2.0 interim head Yap Swee Seng said his group was supportive of the moratorium and the pledge to repeal the Act, which had stifled freedom of expression.

“This Act has no place in new Malaysia and has to be abolished,” said Yap.

Muslim Consumers’ Association of Malaysia secretary-general Datuk Dr Ma’amor Osman however cautioned against repealing the Act without ensuring that authorities have a way to deal with acts that can harm society.

“Even if the law is to be repealed, there must be some way to curb people from playing up certain sensitive issues,” he said.

Dr Ma’amor said the manner that the law had been enforced by the previous government made it appear as if they were too quick to resort to the Sedition Act.