Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time to defend the brave and upright

COMMENTARY BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER

Dr Aziz Bari, who now teaches at Universiti Selangor, faces the prospects of becoming the second academician to be hauled up in Putrajaya's crackdown under the Sedition Act. – The Malaysian Insider pic, September 30, 2014.


Dr Aziz Bari, who now teaches at Universiti Selangor, faces the prospects of becoming the second academician to be hauled up in Putrajaya's crackdown under the Sedition Act. – The Malaysian Insider pic, September 30, 2014.
The Sedition Act is being used again. This time against academic Dr Aziz Bari for his statements about the Selangor ruler that are deemed seditious by some 100 complainants to the police.
The police said these complainants claim he had insulted the Selangor sultan through his statements in "‎Sultan Selangor terikat Deklarasi 1992, perlu lantik Wan Azizah, kata Aziz Bari", published on September 1, and "Only God, not Sultan, has absolute powers, says legal expert" published on September 9.
The police are investigating him under Section 4(1)(a) of the Sedition Act 1948 which relates to any person who "does or attempts to do, or make any preparation to do, or conspires with any person to do, any act which has or which would, if done, have a seditious tendency".
Nowhere there does it say that a citizen cannot freely express his thoughts on a matter which he is an expert.
One has to wonder how liberally can anyone interpret the act to police those who think contrary to the official narrative of the day.
It is time that we put a stop to this abuse of the act by people who cannot argue against a contrarian point of view and have to use the state apparatus to shut down dissent and criticism.
PKR central committee member Latheefa Koya today pointed out that the sedition blitz came about after some 60 Umno division chiefs met the attorney-general (A-G) and inspector-general of police.
Now, we have to ask whether this August 14, 2014, meeting took place, and is the sedition blitz a result of that meeting? It is uncanny and coincidental that the sweep began after that alleged meeting.
PKR central committee member Latheefa Koya yesterday urged the attorney-general to drop the slew of ‘Umno-tainted’ sedition charges, saying that the dragnet had only begun after he and the inspector-general of police met with Umno leaders in August. – The Malaysian Insider pic, September 30, 2014.PKR central committee member Latheefa Koya yesterday urged the attorney-general to drop the slew of ‘Umno-tainted’ sedition charges, saying that the dragnet had only begun after he and the inspector-general of police met with Umno leaders in August. – The Malaysian Insider pic, September 30, 2014.Perhaps, these chaps are at their wits end on how to handle Malaysians who don't accept their narrative and the social media. So they have to badger the police brass and the A-G to take action using a law that few people understand.
The thing is, the act is very specific on seditious offences. Under section 3(1), those acts defined as having a seditious tendency are acts with a tendency:
(a) To bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government;
(b) To excite the subjects of the Ruler or the inhabitants of any territory governed by any government to attempt to procure in the territory of the Ruler or governed by the Government, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;
(c) To bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Malaysia or in any State;
(d) To raise discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or of the Ruler of any State or among the inhabitants of Malaysia or of any State;
(e) To promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia; or
(f) To question any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of part III of the Federal constitution or Article 152, 153 or 181 of the Federal Constitution.
But Section 3(2) provides certain exceptions, providing examples of speech which cannot be deemed seditious.
It is not seditious to "show that any Ruler has been misled or mistaken in any of his measures", nor is it seditious "to point out errors or defects in the Government or Constitution as by law established".
It is also not seditious "to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter in the territory of such Government as by law established" or "to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes of the population of the Federation".
But, the act explicitly states that any matter covered by subsection (1)(f), namely those matters pertaining to the Malaysian social contract, cannot have these exceptions applied to it. These amendments were made in 1971 and are specific in nature.
As one can see, the act does not cover some of the charges that have been put against a number of people in the last two months. It does not cover political parties or even politicians despite police reports on such cases.
Law professor Dr Azmi Sharom was charged with sedition based on statements in an article entitled ‘Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor impasse, Pakatan told’, which was published in a news portal on August 14. – The Malaysian Insider pic, September 30, 2014.Law professor Dr Azmi Sharom was charged with sedition based on statements in an article entitled ‘Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor impasse, Pakatan told’, which was published in a news portal on August 14. – The Malaysian Insider pic, September 30, 2014.It does not cover people who give an opinion. And, beyond academic freedom, it is about the freedom of expression that we enjoy as citizens under the Federal Constitution.
We, Malaysians, must do the right thing. We have to stand by these brave and upright Malaysians who are being persecuted for their views. We have to tell those who cannot argue with them to stop using the law to silence criticism.
The law is meant to protect all Malaysians, not a select few. The likes of Aziz Bari and Azmi Sharom are academics who know the law and explain the spirit and letter of the law.
To call them seditious for their views is an admission that you cannot argue with them. But that is not an excuse to use the act against anyone for expressing their opinion.
It is time that some people grow up, especially petty politicians and sycophants, and participate in the marketplace of ideas without crying for help from the authorities. – September 30, 2014.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/time-to-defend-brave-and-upright-malaysians#sthash.780f56x5.dpuf

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