Government must not backtrack on moratorium on sedition and other laws
4 December 2018
We refer to the multiple investigations under the Sedition Act probing statements related to the Seafield Temple incident.
The government must not fall into the trap of legitimising the narrative spun by right-wing groups and political parties seeking to make this a racial and religious issue, by backtracking on the election promise made to abolish the Sedition Act.
The move to lift the moratorium of five repressive laws to investigate this case is alarming.
When the moratorium was imposed, it was with the intention to abolish. By lifting the moratorium, the government has betrayed its vow to the public, leaving the future of the repeal of these laws uncertain.
Current laws are more than sufficient to punish statements that incite public disorder or alarm the public; the Penal Code contains provisions under sections 504 and 505 whereby insult with intent to provoke a breach of peace and statements conducing to public mischief are penalised.
For rioters, Chapter 8 of the Penal Code “Offences Against The Public Tranquillity” contains an array of provisions related to unlawful assembly and rioting.
The Penal Code even includes sections 155 and 156 covering the situation of agents hiring thugs to riot and also any benefit gained from rioting on behalf of anyone.
Now, the government has damaged the trust Malaysians put in them to usher in a new Malaysia free of draconian laws less than a mere few months after announcing a moratorium on the Sedition Act and other repressive laws.
The government must realise that these laws allow for far reaching and arbitrary powers. On this basis alone they ought to be abolished as future governments may use them not just against cases like the temple riot but also against political opponents and dissidents.
By using these laws once again, Pakatan Harapan will prolong a practice they vowed to end under Barisan Nasional. Do not turn Pakatan Harapan into Barisan Nasional as these laws have facilitated some of the country’s worse human rights violations and their potential for abuse has long and repeatedly been proven.
Lawyers for Liberty