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KUALA LUMPUR, OCT 12, 2014:

The authorities should stop investigating and charging individuals under the Sedition Act 1948 for previous alleged offences and start on a clean slate by clearly spelling out the parameters for someone to be found liable under the legislation.

The Centre For A Better Tomorrow (CenBet) said there were two main reasons why this should be done.

“Firstly, we have seen how law enforcement agencies are now opening up old cases that date as far back as three years ago.

“This has created the perception that the government is on a witch-hunt and bowing to pressure from right-wing groups to act against individuals who are critical of the present administration.

“The prosecutions are selective and have caused gross injustice when laws are not seen to apply equally,” said CenBet co-president, Gan Ping Sieu.

Secondly, he said the present act was vague, archaic and obsolete when it comes to defining what constitutes sedition.

“This is why we see so much public cynicism when some individuals were hauled up over what is perceived to be the most flimsy of reasons,” he pointed out.

Pending the abolishment of the act, CenBet suggested that the Attorney-General’s Chambers stipulate a clear guideline on the “dos and don’ts”, with a threshold or standard no less than criminal defamation before a charge is preferred.

In such circumstances, Gan said individuals could no longer claim ignorance on where to draw the line.

“They can also no longer fall back on the unrestrained ‘freedom of speech’ excuse. A clearly spelt out guideline could at least fill the gap of lack of clarity of the act while waiting the government to table the replacement Bill,” he said.

Gan said the parameters drawn up by the AG’s Chamber should balance freedom of speech with the need to criminalise hate-speech and those with intention to stir physical harm.

“Having suggested these, it must be put on record that CenBet is committed to the abolition of the Sedition Act, which has outlived its historical relevance.

“The above suggestions are merely a stop-gap measure as we wait for the government to unveil and pass the National Harmony Bill,” he added.

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