(The Malaysian Insider) - An international human rights group is eyeing with caution the government’s plan to replace the Sedition Act 1948 with the National Harmony Act, saying that other “repressive” laws had been replaced with laws just as “bad or worse”.
Human Rights Watch said the Sedition Act was “clearly a rights-abusing law” and the replacement law needs to be “consistent with international human rights standards.”
Datuk Seri Najib Razak had yesterday announced the repeal of the 64-year-old law as part of his slew of legislative reforms to increase civil liberties initiated on the eve of Malaysia Day last year.
“To date, Prime Minister Najib’s law reform efforts have been mixed,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of the watchdog’s Asia division.
“To be sure, repressive laws have been repealed but too often — as we saw with the Internal Security Act and the Police Act — the replacement legislation has been as bad or worse from a rights perspective.”
He said “the government should realise that change for change’s sake is not enough”, adding that the drafting of replacement laws “has gone on behind closed doors with little input from civil society.”
“Real reform” will only take place if the government engages and consults civil society groups in a transparent manner over the new National Harmony Act, said Robertson.