THE Sedition Act 1948 now follows other draconian legislation before it into the dustbin of the nation’s history. In its place will be the new National Harmony Act to oversee legitimate national interests more meaningfully.
The Attorney-General’s Cham-bers will also solicit the views of concerned individuals and groups as responsible stakeholders. These changes are part of a larger transformation that spans legislation as well as the approach to legislating.
The Government has a central role in enacting legislation, but the people also have a duty in helping shape it. The nation as a whole thus has the responsibility of abiding by that legislation.
Any comparative study of the National Harmony Act and the Sedition Act would show that the new is better than the old. The Sedition Act had been wrought in a different era for what have become dated purposes.
Malaysian society has moved on in 64 years, and it was time for the Act to go as well. However, that does not mean no legislation whatsoever is required anymore.
Malaysia and Malaysians have become less fragile, though not yet as robust as we need to be.
Racial and religious sensitivities as well as core national institutions remain important realities in everyday life, however much some may wish to be less bound by them.
For the Sedition Act to yield to the National Harmony Act therefore represents a bold yet cautious progression. It is a steady evolution, which assures progress better than impulsive revolution and its unpredictable consequences.
This is a heuristic process of incremental reform that minimises dramatic upsets and pitfalls. It hones legal provisions to suit a developing society, which in turn modulates the lawmaking process for the greater good of the greater number.
Nonetheless, there are naysayers who still complain about having any law at all in governing a highly heterogeneous, often anxious and sometimes intemperate society. These are a mixed bag of nihilistic rejectionists and political opportunists with petty personal ambitions rather than the larger national interests at heart.
Mature Malaysians, however, would acknowledge that while no law may be perfect, what matters is the progressive mindset that gets the nation where it needs to go.
To live up to its spirit, prosecutions under the National Harmony Act need to be equally judicious and enlightened.