Home Ministry’s response to accusations of backtracking on reforms is dishonest, flimsy & similar to the former BN govt’s excuses

22 April 2019

In a statement on 20th April 2019, the Home Ministry responded to accusations of backtracking on reforms by claiming that discussions are still ongoing with the police, AGC and others to amend or repeal the Sedition Act 1948, POCA 1959, Printing Press and Publications Act 1984 and POTA 2015; whilst SOSMA 2012 and PAA 2012 will be amended in the next Parliament session.

Firstly, what are the amendments to the Sosma 2012 and PAA 2012? Why are they still kept secret? Going by the recently tabled amendments to the National Security Council Act 2016, we can have no confidence that these so-called amendments to the Sosma and PAA will remove the undemocratic nature of these laws. This is because the NSCA amendments betrayed public expectations by leaving most of its most draconian provisions intact. To protect the public from another NSCA-style betrayal, the proposed amendments must be made public immediately.

Secondly, why are ‘discussions’ still ongoing when PH’s promise was to repeal entirely the Sedition Act, POCA 1959 and PPPA 1984? To ‘discuss’ means repeal is not certain; and this goes totally against the promise in the PH manifesto that these 3 laws will be repealed outright.

All that is required is a simple Bill tabled in Parliament to revoke those laws. This could easily have been done in the very first session of the new parliament in July of last year. Instead the Home Ministry has been periodically producing flimsy and baseless excuses for not repealing these oppressive laws.

The Home Ministry’s claim that the repeal of these laws ‘must be studied comprehensively so that national security is not affected’ is untenable and plainly dishonest. This blanket excuse of ‘national security’ was similarly wielded like a mantra by the corrupt and repressive BN government.

When the BN government defended these very laws, the PH opposition vigorously condemned them. But now when in government, PH claims their repeal may affect national security. Oppressive laws cannot magically transform into just and acceptable laws simply because PH is now in power.

Contrary to the Home Ministry’s exaggerated claims, national security will not be affected by the repeal of these laws as there exist a panoply of other laws in the Penal Code and other statutes to deal with serious crime or words that may incite disturbance, as acknowledged by PH leaders themselves during the previous BN government.

As for the PPPA 1984, it is anathema to the existence of a free media that is able to fearlessly question or criticise the government. The existence of the PPPA 1984 will prevent press scrutiny of any future government that may practice kleptocracy, corruption and repression as did Najib and the former BN government. What is the Home Ministry’s excuse for still keeping or ‘discussing’ this pernicious law?

There are many former champions of civil liberties and press freedom now in Cabinet or otherwise in high governmental positions. Why have they gone silent on the dithering and delaying tactics of the Home Ministry?

We urge the Home Ministry to stop dragging their feet on these crucially important repeals. Malaysia cannot call itself a proper or proud democracy whilst these undemocratic laws remain on the statute books.

At the coming session of Parliament, the government must table a single omnibus bill which abolishes all these oppressive laws. The government must not try to fool the public by doling out diluted reforms in a piecemeal manner. Our patience is wearing thin. Nothing less than complete repeal of the repressive laws will be acceptable to the millions of Malaysians who voted for change in the historic 14th general election.

Issued by,
N Surendran
Lawyers for Liberty