PUTRAJAYA: Law lecturer Dr Azmi Sharom lost his bid to have the Sedition Act 1948 declared invalid but others facing similar charges are undeterred and have vowed to keep fighting.
Lawyer N. Surendren said Azmi’s defeat in the Federal Court yesterday was not a “crushing blow to freedom of speech” as others seeking to challenge the constitutionality of the Act could still argue on different points of law.
Surendran was charged in August last year with sedition for a comment he made about Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy 2 case, while acting as Anwar’s counsel.
“Even if we lose our constitutional challenges, we will fight on the merits of our case,” said Surendran, who is representing several people charged with sedition, including Batu MP Tian Chua and political cartoonist Zunar.
The Padang Serai MP added that an attempt to repeal the law could be made in Parliament.
Even the late Karpal Singh’s estate is continuing the fight. His son Gobind Singh Deo said he would continue with the appeal against his father’s conviction, which is currently in case management at the Court of Appeal.
Hindraf founder P. Uthayakumar said he did not regret his words which landed him in prison.
“Today’s outcome may make some activists more guarded and cautious, but people will say what must be said,” he said.
Social activist Hishammuddin Rais is challenging his conviction for sedition as the prosecution has cross-appealed to increase his punishment.
On Jan 9, the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court fined Hishammuddin RM5,000 for statements made at a rally where he called the general election results unfair.
Lawyer Michelle Yesudas, who represented student activist Adam Adli, said the prosecution was also attempting to enhance his sentence.
Adam was sentenced to a year’s jail for statements he made at the same rally as Hishammuddin.
Adam said there was ripple effect, beyond the possibility of jail time for those charged with sedition, as in his case where his enrolment was terminated by the university.
“But it’s surprising where things can lead. If I hadn’t been charged with sedition, I wouldn’t have decided to study law,” he said, adding that he was originally studying to become a teacher.
Others charged under the Sedition Act, whose cases will now go back to court include activist Haris Ibrahim, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, Tian Chua, and Zunar.
In 2012, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak promised he would repeal the Sedition Act. In 2014, he told the Umno general assembly that the law would remain.
Since 2013, more than 25 people have been charged under the Act.
They include former Malacca chief minister Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik, PAS exco member Fakhrulrazi Mohd Mokhtar, sex couple Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee and Mohd Tamrin Abdul Ghafar.
Others are DAP’s Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer, PKR’s Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli and Nurul Izzah Anwar, Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen and London-based Sabah activist Doris Jones.
Sedition Act 1948 ‘constitutional’
It’s outrageous, says Guan Eng