By Kasthuri Patto
This week saw the Prime Minister address young Malaysians of the youth parliament in the Dewan Rakyat. He smugly dismissed allegations that the government is autocratic, saying that it is open to criticism, mentioned that those who wanted to give their feedback or criticism should do it in a proper manner-that street rallies and ‘referendum rakyat’ isn’t our cup of tea.
In fact, in a paradoxical twist, that it is actually his BN administration and he who have violated the spirit of the Federal Constitution that upholds fundamental liberties and freedom of speech by using brute force in the form of laws to curtail freedom of speech and abuse human rights.
Najib announced to the world, in 2011 that the archaic, Sedition Act will be repealed. Malaysians across the board applauded the move saying it was finally a resolute step in the right direction after being under an iron fisted rule for 22 years by former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir. Najib said the decision to replace the Sedition Act with the National Harmony Act was made to find a mechanism to determine the best balance between ensuring every citizen’s freedom of expression, and the need to handle the complex nature of the country’s multi-racial and multi-religious society.
Sadly, our joy was short lived. In 2014, just a mere 3 years after the grandiose announcement, shamelessly, the Prime Minister backtracked on his word and announced that the Sedition Act is here to stay and will be strengthened stripping away fundamental liberties of Malaysians alike.
Prime Minister Najib Razak could not be farther from the truth when he said Malaysia will cease to be respected should be continue to lead the country after the visit of the Ukrainian President recently.
A nation is respected when it upholds fundamental liberties, civil liberties and upholds the spirit of being the defender of human rights. A nation is respected when its leaders do not abuse power, siphon public funds for their own wealth and govern with accountability and transparency. A nation is respected when there is no corrosion in the sanctity of public institutions like the judiciary, the MACC, and the Elections Commission. A nation is respected when it stands by the right to life. A nation is respected when laws that silence voices of conscience and the voices of dissent, laws that blind the authorities against the inhuman treatment of rights of the people, laws that discriminate, oppress and suppress its people, tyrannical laws that protect political criminals and laws that restrict freedom of speech – are all abolished. Then, and only then, would a nation be respected.
The Barisan Nasional government is not only authoritarian but autocratic as well with the reinstating of the Sedition Act.
In October 2014, four UN independent experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, called on Malaysia to withdraw the Sedition Act as it is conflicting and incompatible with international human rights law. The experts recalled the commitment Malaysia made to the UN Human Rights Council at the adoption of its Universal Periodic Review in March 2014 to address international concerns on this matter. However, the commitment remains just hollow, lifeless words as democracy slowly starts to wither in Malaysia.
To date, other Commonwealth member states such as the United Kingdom, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Australia, and New Zealand have repealed their sedition laws. Some of there countries are even experiencing civil unrest in their countries and yet took a bold step in the right direction to preserve civil and fundamental liberties and to uphold the spirit of human rights.
In the spirit of Merdeka celebrations, Najib Razak should prove that the Barisan Nasional administration is not autocratic and authoritarian by doing away with the Sedition Act 1948.
I call upon Najib Razak as Prime Minister to end the repression of political dissent by dropping all sedition charges and for all investigations to cease and to abolish the Sedition Act 1948 without delay in the true spirit of nationalism, patriotism and constitutionalism.