Time to do away with Sedition Act

  • Brave New World
  • Wednesday, 15 Aug 2018

THE 100th day of the Pakatan Harapan Government is coming up. It is this Friday, if my math does not fail me. The coalition has promised to do 10 things within 100 days of forming the Federal Government and some have been fulfilled, like the abolishment of the Goods and Services Tax and the reintroduction of fuel subsidies.

Others may not have been fulfilled, but perhaps some progress has been made. I hope that come the end of the week, Pakatan will give us a report card explaining what has been done, what has not been done, and how it is going to ensure that it will be done.

But what of the other promises that have been made? Just how much time are we to give to those for which no deadline has been set?

For example, under Promise 27 of its election manifesto, Pakatan Harapan said it would abolish what it described as oppressive laws. Number one on the list of laws that it promised to do away with is the Sedition Act.

This has not happened yet, but then legislative changes take time and I, for one, can be patient.

What I cannot understand, however, is why the law is still being used.

Activists Fadiah Nadwa Fikri and Asheeq Ali Sethi Alivi are both being investigated under this law for allegedly saying things against the monarchy.

Now, before we get too carried away, let us remember that these two people are being investigated. At the time of writing, they have yet to be charged. It could ultimately come to nothing if the Attorney General decides not to press charges.

And if I am not mistaken, at this point it is the police who are doing the investigating and they said investigations are normally the result of a police report made by someone.

In other words, somebody did not like what Fadiah and Asheeq said, thinking it was seditious. These persons lodged police reports, which were then acted on.

Supporters of the Government will say these investigations are not direct acts of the Government (unless the Government is the one that made the police reports).

Furthermore, aren’t the police supposed to do their job without fear or favour? If there is a report and there is a law that may have been broken (no matter how bad the law is), then they are duty-bound to investigate.

This is all true, but it is not satisfactory. The Government has promised that this law would be abolished. Therefore, it does not make sense that while we wait for it to be done, this law – which Pakatan itself has described as oppressive – continues to be used.

While we wait for Parliament to do its job, something must be done to ensure that the Sedition Act is not used, even though it continues to exist.

Civil society has suggested a moratorium on the Act. It is up to the Government to explain why this has not been done.

Anything less will show a lack of commitment to a very important promise.

Azmi Sharom (azmi.sharom@gmail.com) is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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