Date: 1st SEPTEMBER 2014
The United Kingdom & Eire Law Students’ Union (KPUM) would like to officially state our strong concern towards the recent increase in arrests and charges made by the Royal Malaysian Police Force and the Attorney-General under the Sedition Act 1948.
An Act of such nature should have no place in the 21st Century. It breaches the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the protection of the fundamental freedom of expression, clearly provided for under Article 10 of our Federal Constitution.
Unlike the usual elements needed to prove a crime, there is no need to prove intention under the Sedition Act. The elements required for a successful charge is merely that the courts be satisfied that the statement made has “seditious tendency” under Section 3 of the Act. The word “sedition” is not clearly defined within the Act hence allowing it to be used as a tool to silence political dissidents or whoever else is viewed as a threat to the ruling government.
This disturbing trend has been observed with the charging of Teresa Kok under the Act for her Chinese New Year video which was merely a form of political satire, N. Surendran for claiming the Anwar sodomy trial is a political conspiracy and Khalid Samad calling for the review of the Enactment on Islamic Laws Administration (Enactment No. 3, 1952) and the Islamic Religion Administration Enactment 2003 to be reviewed. Recently, a student was also investigated for sedition for “liking” a Facebook page and tomorrow, Dr. Azmi Sharom, an academician, will be charged for sedition for giving his academic opinion on the Selangor MB crisis. Such occurrences are disturbing as they undermine the democracy and academic freedom in this country.
The Sedition Act, as can be seen on the year of enactment, is a creature of our British colonial masters in the 40s aimed at combating communist-terrorism as well as the rising dissent amongst the leftist nationalists against the British.
Hence, the Act should no longer serve its purpose the moment we gained independence from the British and communism is no longer a present threat in Malaysia. Hence, we are of the opinion that the Sedition Act is an archaic, draconian law which no longer serves its enacted purpose and is not compatible with the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We believe that there are sufficient laws within the Defamation Act and Penal Code to regulate speech and resolve unreasonable damage of reputation or physical threats made.
Having participated in one of the consultation roundtables, we would like to state our support for the National Unity Consultative Council’s (NUCC) Religious and Harmony Bills particularly the Religious and Hate Crimes Bill as a replacement as long as the oppressive spirit of the Sedition Act does not remain. Nevertheless, even with this promise of a replacement, the authorities have shown insufficient political will to cease using the Sedition Act. Hence, until and unless the government hold fast to their promise to repeal the Sedition Act, we will not stay silent on this matter.
We would like to stress that KPUM is strictly a non-partisan organization that is in favour of upholding the interests of Malaysian law students in line with the rule of law. It may be true that majority of the victims of the Sedition Act are politicians and the issue may be political, but this in no way represents a partisan view. As a union of law students who actively promotes human rights, rule of law and academic freedom, we have no choice but to speak up on this matter and condemn the actions of the authorities. We have seen an academician being charged for Sedition in court for his academic views. The iron claws of the Sedition Act has entered the doors of the universities, we cannot and will not wait for law students to be charged under this draconian law before we speak up.
We will be supporting and participating in the National Young Lawyer’s Committee (NYLC) of the Bar Council’s #MansuhkanAktaHasutan campaign. Finally, we strongly urge all our law-reading peers in Malaysian and UK Universities to speak up against this draconian law and the Attorney-General together with the police to stop this continuous breach of civil liberties.
Pang Jo Fan, President
Cassandra Chung, General-Secretary
(University of Nottingham)
Foong Lily, Finance & Corporate Relations Director
(London School of Economics & Political Science)
Adrian Koh, Careers Development Director
(University of Bristol)
Safwa Tahir, Student Relations & Outreach Director
(University of Hertfordshire)