Press Statement by DAP Secretary-General and MP for Bagan Lim Guan Eng in Kuala Lumpur on 12.7.2012
Najib Must Prove That The Repeal Of The Sedition Act And The Introduction Of The National Harmony Act Is Not Another Thinly-Disguised Draconian Law By Immediately Withdrawing All Charges Under The Sedition Act Against Karpal Singh And Other Leaders, And Issuing An Apology To All Those Convicted Throughout The Years Under Both The Sedition Act As Well As The ISA.
Last night, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak announced that the government will finally be repealing the Sedition Act 1948. He then added that it will be replaced with a National Harmony Act.
DAP welcomes the repeal of this draconian and antiquated piece of legislation that has over half a century been used and abused to suppress legitimate political opposition. However, we also urge the government to ensure that its replacement, the National Harmony Act, will not end up like the newly-introduced Peaceful Assembly Act which has turned out to be nothing but a sham.
The Peaceful Assembly Act, which was introduced last year, has introduced a multitude of arbitrary requirements, making it even more difficult for people to assemble, and incredibly even outlaws street protests. Worse, the act has now been used to selectively prosecute opposition leaders including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim over the Bersih 3.0 protest in Dataran Merdeka earlier this year.
Dato’ Sri Najib needs to prove to Malaysians that the repeal of the Sedition Act and the introduction of the National Harmony Act is genuine and not another thinly-disguised draconian law, and the only way to do this is by immediately withdrawing all existing charges under the Sedition Act against Karpal Singh and other leaders.
I myself have been a victim of the Sedition Act. In 1998, I was convicted and imprisoned for 18 months for allegedly making seditious remarks that caused public disaffection over my defence of an under-aged Malay girl who was detained despite being a rape victim. These charges were filed against me even though there had been no demonstrations against me for defending this under-aged rape victim. This is because no one in their right mind would make such a demonstration against someone who was defending the victim instead of the rapist. And yet I ended up charged under the Sedition Act. Here, it is very clear that like the now-repealed ISA, the Sedition Act has long been used as a convenient political tool against members of the opposition including myself, other MPs, journalists and even NGO leaders.
Dato’ Sri Najib himself recently admitted that the ISA was a political tool that has in the past been used for “wrongful reasons”. If that is the case, then Dato’ Sri Najib should now prove his sincerity and commitment to reform by not only withdrawing all existing charges against Karpal Singh and other leaders but also issuing an official apology to all those convicted throughout the years under both under the Sedition Act as well as the ISA.