THE Sedition (Amendment) Bill 2015 was passed after a long-drawn and contentious debate and a demand by the MPs for changes to be made to it.
At press time, the Bill was being debated at the policy stage.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the changes made to it showed that the Government was sensitive to the issues raised over some provisions.
“That is why we have taken steps to make the changes, which I will be carrying out,” he said when wrapping up his speech on the Bill.
He assured the MPs that the amendments were needed to improve the sedition laws, which included “value added” amendments to allow criticism of the Government and the judiciary.
He defended the Government’s move to retain the sedition laws although there was an assurance that it would be done away with in 2011.
“In light of the recent rise in sedition cases, the Government saw that there was a need to amend the parent Act to improve it,” he said.
Earlier, during the debate, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (BN-Pengerang) asked whether Malaysia needed incidents of publications that insulted religion, such as the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in France.
“Can you imagine if every week there are similar publications to offend Muslims here on online media?
“Or imagine if there are other forms of mockery on the Prophet and even Jesus Christ in our plural society?”
Azalina chided the Opposition MPs for being perasan (self-centered) for implying that the law would be used against them.
Liang Teck Meng (BN-Simpang Renggam) said freedom of speech had its limits, giving examples of people wishing others Selamat Hari Raya using pictures of bak kut teh or dogs.
Opposition MPs, however, lambasted the proposed amendments, adding that it should never have seen the light of day.
Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan) pointed out there were 16 DAP elected representatives who were investigated or charged for sedition while the one case of Perkasa calling for the burning of Malay language Bibles was dropped.
“The Bill is also an attack on Malaysia’s role in the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, of which Malaysia is a member,” he added.
N. Surendran (PKR-Padang Serai) argued that the definition of “seditious tendency” was too wide and that the decision to prosecute and investigate was based on the whims and fancy of the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney-General.