Friday, September 5, 2014

112 NGOs band together to fight Sedition Act

Published: 5 September 2014
 Representatives from 112 non-governmental organisations at the launch of the ‘Abolish the Sedition Act’ (GHAH) movement today. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, September 5, 2014.
Representatives from 112 non-governmental organisations at the launch of the ‘Abolish the Sedition Act’ (GHAH) movement today. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, September 5, 2014.
A movement dubbed “Abolish the Sedition Act” (GHAH) was launched today in response to the use of the draconian law as a means of political repression and terror.
A total of 112 civil society organisations are part of this movement, which said it wants to bury the colonial-era law if Malaysia is to be a truly independent nation.
"The Sedition Act is clearly being misused to protect the government and its interests, clamp down on the opposition and dissidents, make certain issues off limits, stifle civil liberties and create a climate of fear reminiscent of the worst days under the iron-fisted Mahathir regime," said Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen at a press conference today.
He said the movement was concerned with the selective prosecution under the act, adding that the Attorney-General was targeting government critics.

"Over the past month, the act has been indiscriminately used in a new wave of political repression and terror and whose targets have included elected representatives and lawyers who have a public duty to speak on matters of public interest," Paulsen said.

The movement's demands include the repeal of the act and for existing sedition charges to be dropped.

Paulsen also said the act was being used to strike fear in the media, as seen from the arrest of Malaysiakini journalist Susan Loone for investigations over an allegedly seditious article.

"They’re trying to create a climate of fear, but don't worry, carry on with your job and if you get into trouble, Lawyers for Liberty will be behind you.”

When asked if GHAH would organise demonstrations, Paulsen said that it was the right of Malaysians under Article 10 of the Constitution to assemble and march peacefully.
"After the case of Nik Nazmi in the Court of Appeal, no Malaysian should be afraid to demonstrate peacefully.”

(He was referring to Selangor Deputy Speaker Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, who was charged with failure to give a 10-day notice to police for the Black Out Rally last year.)

"So certainly it is part of what we will be doing, but it is something we should not ponder upon because it is within our rights," he said.

Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng said the movement would support the upcoming protest in Universiti Malaya on September 10 in support of law lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom, who was charged with sedition earlier this week.

Activist Hishamuddin Rais, who was also charged with sedition, said that the political situation was such now that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was using the Sedition Act to counter accusations by former prime minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad that he was a weak leader.

"This is the background of the situation we are in, Najib is trying to prove to Dr Mahathir that he is not weak and so we are the victims.

"But the bigger issue is that the Sedition Act means that we cannot speak or think," Hishamuddin said.

Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni said that the increasing use of the Sedition Act was fostering a climate of repression. The views of opposition politicians and other critical voices, as well as of ordinary individuals simply expressing their opinions, were being suppressed.

In calling for the act to be abolished, she also called on the Malaysian authorities to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to incorporate its provisions in domestic law, policy and practice.

GHAH will be launched on September 15 and will go on a nationwide roadshow. – September 5, 2014.

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