I thank the Penang Bar Committee as Organisers of today’s inaugural Karpal Singh Forum for inviting me to attend and launch this prestigious event. Karpal’s passing has left a void in all of us, especially during deeply troubling and challenging times such as these.
From an already archaic and draconian law, the Sedition Act with its latest amendments has morphed and mutated into a juggernaut that tramples on human rights, assaults the senses and curtails the freedom of citizens of this country in every way possible. Motivated by fear – fear of speech, thought and liberalism – the powers that be, have stopped at nothing short of attempting to programme everyone into being meek and mindless robots.
I am told by the Organisers that the theme for this Forum in memory of the late Karpal Singh was chosen more than 6 months ago. Yet the timing of this event to commemorate him a year after his untimely passing has seen a flurry of events unfolding which puts the future of this country and all Malaysians at stake. Far from moving ahead as a developed nation, we have regressed further and further. The country’s rich resources have been ravished by economic bandits and ingrained potential of its people are not given the prominence they deserve. We celebrate not excellence but mediocrity, we glorify not integrity but revel in corruption and waste.
Nobody can tell us with any certainty what ‘sedition’ actually is. The definition, or rather its absence thereof, is subjective and open to various interpretations with a wide discretion given to the prosecuting authorities that creates more room for abuse and selective prosecution by the authorities.
The Federal Constitution which is supposed to be the law of the land has now taken a back seat and the previous guarantee of equal protection of every Malaysian – regardless of gender, religious belief, and ethnic origin – is slowly diminishing. In defiance of the Federal Constitution, various laws have been put in place – bulldozed through at the wee hours of the morning during the last Parliamentary sitting. Parliament is a mere rubber-stamp for the powers that be who will have us believe that these laws are for protecting the country and its citizens. But every right-thinking man, woman and even child will realise that those laws are designed to do nothing more than infringe on our human rights and personal liberties.
Users of electronic media are not spared either as there is the threat of a prohibition order which can prevent someone from using a smartphone, tablet, desktop and any other electronic device if they are found guilty posting something seditious – or rather, deemed to be seditious by the authorities who have widespread powers.
Many people feel that the Sedition Act or the Prevention of Terrorism Act and other such laws do not affect them. Perhaps it is due to a sense of apathy or ignorance. But I assure you that it does.
The oppressive amendments to the Sedition Act is an open attack on the Malaysian people in 10 key areas:-
1. Attack on fundamental human rights of freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and even our own Federal Constitution. There used to be freedom of speech but no freedom after speech in Malaysia. With these harsh amendments, that provides sentencing of up to 20 years in prison, there will be neither freedom after speech nor freedom of speech.
2. Attack on freedom of the press, especially the online media. Clearly the amendments permit the BN government to extend its tentacles to silence and stifle the free voices in the online media, just as have they have controlled and manipulated the mainstream media;
3. Attack on the rule of law where lawyers say there was still no clarity of what amounts to “seditious tendency” in Section 3(1), but there is now a new clause of seditious tendency that is vague. Further there is no justice when no consideration is given to a youthful or first time offender.
4. Attack on the judiciary where the fixing of a minimum sentence of 3 years imprisonment, is a gross interference with judicial discretion on sentencing. Further is the government not only disrespecting but also in contempt of the judiciary by making such amendments, when it is sub judice as the issue is still pending decision by the Federal Court on whether the sedition law is constitutional.
5. Attack on parliament and the parliamentary process by delimiting the right of MPs and State Assemblymen to enjoy the right of legal immunity of anything said in the House by even prosecuting for sedition the Penang DAP ADUN for Sri Delima, YB RSN Rayer when he attacked UMNO in the Penang State Assembly. Further, BN has treated Parliament as a mere rubberstamp by bulldozing bills in the early hours of the morning and only giving short notice of less than 2 days for such an important amendment bill.
6. Attack on honourable and noble conduct of keeping one’s word and promises, especially the Prime Minister’s thrice repeated promise to abolish the Sedition Act. 15/9/2011, July 2012 and 2 July 2013. Failure to keep one’s promises gives politicians a bad name, if even the Prime Minister can do it without any shame or regret.
7. Attack on Malaysia’s role in the United Nations Human Rights Council, of which Malaysia is a member. Malaysia will become a laughing stock of being a member of a UN council promoting human rights when it is stamping out freedom of expression.
8. Attack on creativity and innovation which relies on the 3Ts of Talent, Technology and Tolerance of new ideas;
9. Attack on our future where our future generation will live in a climate of fear and be silenced by fear. What difference will this future be from the box-office movie The Hunger Games, where sedition is also severely punished.
10. Attack on the opposition, which has been victimised by selective prosecution and double-standards where the enhancement of punishment under these amendments, will automatically disqualify a member of Parliament or State Assemblymen. So far 160 people have been arrested, from law professors to a cartoonist representing all sections of society! Amongst the list of DAP leaders, MPs and ADUNs charged or investigated under the Sedition Act are as follows(see attached)
People like Karpal Singh have fought tooth and nail against any form of injustice and oppression. The current and future generations must do the same. Only when there is no longer any repression and oppression can we call ourselves a truly democratic and developed country free from corruption and abuse of power.
I wish to share a quote by Albert Einstein who said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”. That is the very philosophy and mantra of Karpal Singh; how he lived his life, how he positively affected, moved and inspired those around him. Let us honour him by doing something and standing up against those who do evil.
I lastly applaud and congratulate the Penang Bar Committee for holding this Forum in memory of Karpal Singh and to carry on the good fight by educating and creating awareness among the public and society at large, especially the younger generation, as to how unjust and oppressive laws like the Sedition Act affects each and every one of us.
—–Mandarin Version —–