KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30, 2014:Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen rubbished the government’s explanation on the replacement of the Sedition Act today. Calling the Prime Minister’s Office statement as being “blatantly misleading and even untrue”, Paulsen said it was shocking that it implied that charges had nothing to do with the government. Earlier today, the government attempted to explain the ongoing debacle on the need for the Sedition Act that had many wondering where they should draw the line on criticising authority in the country. According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office, a government spokesperson stated that the Act would soon be replaced by the National Harmony Bill.
The Bill, the statement said, “is intended to be a comprehensive, fair and lasting piece of legislation that promotes national harmony whilst protecting Malaysian citizens from racial or religious hatred”. The spokesperson also said that until the new legislation was in place, existing cases would be tried under existing laws. “Any charges under the Sedition Act are a matter for the courts. “Malaysia’s judiciary is independent, as the verdicts of many cases prove,” the statement said. According to Paulsen, it was elementary that all criminal charges were brought by the Attorney-General’s Chambers acting as public prosecutor and that the courts were only the adjudicator. “It is trite and common knowledge that the Attorney-General’s Chambers is an appendage of the Government and far from being independent, it acts at the behest and interest of the Government.”
Therefore, he claimed that the statement was irresponsibly placing burden and blame on the courts to resolve sedition charges when it was the Attorney-General’s Chambers that was responsible for selectively “misusing its prosecutorial powers” against Opposition leaders. Paulsen reiterated the repeated promises by the government that the Sedition Act would be repealed, which were first made in 2012 and then again in 2013. “The insistence of the statement that the Sedition Act will still be repealed makes no sense as a responsible and democratic Government will act consistently with the promised repeal and not go the other extreme by increasing its usage.”
He added the Sedition Act had no place in a modern and democratic Malaysia, calling for all sedition charges to be withdrawn immediately. He also urged for a moratorium to be imposed over its further use and for the Act to be repealed.