PETALING JAYA: The Home Ministry's response to accusations of backtracking on reforms is flimsy and resembles Barisan Nasional's excuses of the past, said Lawyers for Liberty.
Its advisor N. Surendran (pic) said that only a simple bill was required to revoke laws such as the Sedition Act 1948, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), the Peaceful Assembly Act (APA) 2012, Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015, and the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA).
He said this could have easily been done in the very first session of the new Parliament in July last year but the Home Ministry periodically produced "flimsy and baseless" excuses for not repealing these laws.
"The Home Ministry's claim that the repeal of these laws 'must be studied comprehensively so that national security is not affected' is untenable and plainly dishonest. This blanket excuse of 'national security' was similarly wielded like a mantra by the corrupt and repressive Barisan government.
"When the Barisan government defended these very laws, the Pakatan Harapan opposition vigorously condemned them. But now when in government, Pakatan claims their repeal may affect national security.
"Oppressive laws cannot magically transform into just and acceptable laws simply because Pakatan is now in power," Surendran said in a statement on Monday (April 22).
In a statement on Saturday (April 20), the Home Ministry responded to accusations of backtracking on reforms by claiming that discussions are still ongoing with the police, Attorney General's Chambers and others to amend or repeal the laws.
Surendran said that contrary to the Home Ministry's claims, national security will not be affected by the repeal of these laws as there were laws in the Penal Code and other statutes to deal with serious crime or words that may incite disturbance.
He added that the PPPA was an anathema to the existence of a free media that is able to fearlessly question or criticise the government.
"There are many former champions of civil liberties and press freedom now in Cabinet or otherwise in high governmental positions. Why have they gone silent on the dithering and delaying tactics of the Home Ministry?
"We urge the Home Ministry to stop dragging their feet on these crucially important repeals. Malaysia cannot call itself a proper or proud democracy whilst these undemocratic laws remain on the statute books," said Surendran.
He said that the government must table a single omnibus bill that abolishes all these laws and that they must not try to fool the public by doling out diluted reforms in a piecemeal manner.
"Nothing less than complete repeal of the repressive laws will be acceptable to the millions of Malaysians who voted for change in the historic 14th General Election," he said.