Abdul Aziz is wrong – no need for consent of Conference of Rulers to abolish Sedition Act 1948
21 January 2019
We refer to the statement by Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman yesterday that the Sedition Act 1948 cannot be abolished without the consent of the Conference of Rulers, and that calling for its abolition is itself seditious.
This is a gross misunderstanding and misreading of the Federal Constitution and the Sedition Act 1948.
Abdul Aziz claims that the Sedition Act was enacted under Article 10(4) of the Constitution, and that by virtue of Article 159(5) any law made under Art 10(4) requires the consent of the Rulers for repeal. He could not be more wrong.
Firstly, the Sedition Act is not enacted under Article 10(4) of the Constitution. It cannot possibly be enacted under Art 10(4), as the Constitution itself did not exist when the Sedition Act was enacted by the British colonial power in 1948. The Constitution only came into existence 9 years later in 1957. It is simply astonishing that Abdul Aziz overlooked this simple fact in his zeal to uphold the oppressive Sedition Act.
Further, if the Sedition Act was really enacted under a specific provision of the Constitution such as Article 10(4), this would be reflected in the preamble to the Act. However, nowhere in the Sedition Act does it state that it is a law made under Article 10(4).
Article 63(4) of the Constitution, in categorising the Sedition Act separately from laws passed under Article 10(4), also makes it crystal clear that the Sedition Act is not made under Article 10(4).
The Sedition Act 1948 is thus an ordinary legislation which can be repealed by a simple majority in Parliament, and without the consent of the Conference of Rulers.
Abdul Aziz’s claim that the Sedition Act is an ‘extraordinary’ piece of legislation does not have either legal or historical basis. In fact, the Sedition Act is little more than a British penal ordinance carried over into independent Malaysia.
Far from being an ‘extraordinary’ law, it is actually an inferior colonial law that was never passed by our Parliament.
Secondly, it is the height of absurdity for Abdul Aziz to claim that calling for the repeal of the Sedition Act is itself a seditious act.
Parliament has the power and duty to repeal or amend laws, hence it can never be seditious for citizens to call upon parliament or the government to abolish any law including the Sedition Act.
Abdul Aziz’s argument that by virtue of s 3(1)(f) of the Sedition Act, it would be seditious to move to abolish the law is misguided and laughable.
Section 3(1)(f) only states that it is seditious to ‘question matters’ on citizenship, national language, special position of Malays or Rulers sovereignty. To abolish or call for the abolition of the Sedition Act does not in any way ‘question’ the above-stated matters, and hence cannot be seditious.
Furthermore, Abdul Aziz ignores the effect of Article 10(1)(a) of the Constitution which guarantees citizens’ freedom of speech, including to call for or move the abolition of any law. It is fundamental that the Constitution must be read as a whole, and not in a piecemeal fashion as Abdul Aziz and others like him have done.
We reiterate that the Sedition Act 1948 is an oppressive and undemocratic law which must be abolished at the next session of Parliament in line with the promise made in the PH election manifesto.
It is simply outrageous that Tan Sri Abdul Aziz, Umno and some other right-wing groups continue to defend this repressive relic of British colonial rule which is contrary to the aspirations of independent Malaysia.
Lawyers for Liberty