Amendment to Sedition Act makes independence hollows and must be withdrawn

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Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) calls upon the Federal Government to withdraw the Amendment Bill to Sedition Act rather than table it in Dewan Negara. If the Government is adamant to table it, all patriots in Dewan Negara must be present and vote against it.

Standing firm with various civil society groups opposing the bill, GBM condemns in the strongest term the bill which severely curbs civil and political liberties of Malaysians, making our nation’s independence hollow.

GBM asks, how do we celebrate Merdeka if our forefathers and mothers enjoyed more civil and political liberties under the British colonial government than we do today?

The Sedition Act was enacted in 1948 in response to the communist insurgency but was made harsher first by the 1970 amendment and would be even draconian if the 2015 amendment comes to force.

The 2015 amendment poses a grave threat to Malaysians’ freedom in two main ways.

Firstly, the net is cast much wider:

    (a)   the amendment to Section 10  and the addition of Section 10A, impose restrictions on online publication which may include social media
    (b)   the amendment to Section 3(1)(e) and  3(2)(c)(ii) inserts the word “hatred” in addition to the word “ill will” or “hostility” in the original Act and also an additional reference to religion in addition to the reference of race and class in the original Act.
    (c)    The addition of Section 4(1A) which criminalises seditious publications“[leading] to bodily injury and damage to property”, disregarding if such acts of violence are carried out by parties who agree or disagree to the opinion expressed.

Secondly, the punishments are made harsher:

(a)   the amendment to Section 4(1) imposes minimum sentence of 3 years imprisonment upon conviction and eliminates the alternative of fine, with no consideration for young offenders, first time offenders or nature of the offence;

(b)   the addition of Section 5A obliges the judge to allow the prosecution’s application for restriction on travel for the accused on bail;

(c)   the deletion of Section 6 which currently provides for reasonable ground for acquittal of the accused and demands larger effort by the prosecution to prove their case.

The fundamental flaw of the Sedition Act is it disregards intention and hence does not differentiate between agitation of violence and provocation of violence. As the accusation of provocation can be easily made, violence may be effectively encouraged by parties who want to blame others for provocation.

A teenager may be jailed for three years three years for sharing a Facebook posting and or retweeting a tweet if another party who causes bodily injury or property damage and accuses her of provoking.

Instead of promoting social harmony, the Sedition Act risks fostering impunity of violence and encouraging “politics of amok”.

GBM sees the hasty passing of the Amendment to Sedition Act at the wee hours of 2.30 am of 10 April as an utterly irresponsible act of arrogance and tyranny by the Executive.

GBM condemns in the strongest words the 108 parliamentarians who could not wait to destroy our constitutional freedom, censures the 35 absentee parliamentarians who could not be bothered to vote against the bill and 79 real patriots who stand firm to defend the meaning of our independence.