KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — The Sedition Act 1948 is a counter-productive law that will lead to ignorance and suppress the country’s growth, Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong said as lawyers gear up for a mass rally against the colonial-era legislation that has snagged some 30 government dissenters recently.
Leong also pointed out that the Malaysian Bar’s Walk for Peace and Freedom scheduled for Thursday in the city centre will only be the professional legal body’s fourth demonstration in its 67-year long history.
“When the Bar does stand up and walk on the very rare occasion, we know there’s a rotten state of affairs,” Leong told Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.
The senior lawyer said that the Sedition Act, which has been used against at least 30 people since March last year, was counter-productive to the aims of creating a more inclusive and informed society because it criminalises the expression of thought.
“The Sedition Act makes us stupid,” Leong said.
“You cannot expect thinking and intelligent people to stop thinking and expressing their thoughts through inquiry, questions, debate and criticism. If you suppress these elements and punish them for their thoughts and questions, you in fact engender ignorance, unhappiness and retard growth,” he added.
He noted that more than 20 people have been investigated, charged or convicted under the Sedition Act this year, in what is seen as a government crackdown against lawyers, activists, academics and even journalists.
Leong said Malaysians should be allowed to debate issues like vernacular schools or matters involving the royalty, while stressing that freedom of speech and expression should not include the freedom to incite or to commit racial or religious violence.
“We should be allowed to ask questions on any aspect of the Federal Constitution and any institution under it so that answers may be provided and Malaysians will be educated,” the lawyer said.
Leong also stressed that the Malaysian Bar’s march was in support of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 2012 pledge to repeal the Sedition Act and his call for moderates to rise up against extremism.
“The Malaysian Bar is standing up and giving voice to all peace-loving and moderate Malaysians,” he said.
Leong said the Malaysian Bar’s protest scheduled at the Padang Merbok car park in the city centre was organised for lawyers.
When asked if the public could join in, he said: “We cannot stop people from entering a public space”.
Leong said the protest was named the Walk for Peace and Freedom to call for the peace of all Malaysians irrespective of race or religion, lasting harmony and freedom.
“It’s a walk for freedom from fear, freedom from oppressive laws, freedom from exploitation for personal sectarian or selfish gains, freedom to discuss and debate, freedom to grow and mature, and freedom to learn,” he said.- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/the-sedition-act-makes-us-stupid-malaysian-bar-chief-says#sthash.Z1jZZYHx.JqfxQNzv.dpuf