Slander ‘legal’ if sedition law yanked, says Zahid Hamidi 

(The Malay Mail Online) – Instigators would get away with calumny, baseless allegations and condemnations if the Sedition Act were to be repealed and the police would be hard pressed to rein in unrest, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (picture) said today.

The home minister reportedly nixed talk that the government would do away with the law that critics and opposition politicians have branded draconian for curbing free speech, saying the controversial Sedition Act was needed to keep the peace.

“Now however they want to abolish the Sedition Act too… I do not think there is a need, because what have we got left to protect the people and the country’s peace?” he was quoted as saying by state news wire Bernama today, after launching a motorcycle convoy to Singapore in Kuala Lumpur.

“In addition, when it is repealed, all slander, allegations and condemnations by provocators can be considered legitimate even though our democracy does not require it,” he was reported as saying.

Ahmad Zahid also said perpetrators would likely escape the law on some legal loopholes even if the police managed to book them should the controversial legislation be removed.

“In fact, if caught with such allegations, they will find technical aspects to escape and the police will not be able to do anything even though they may have solid evidence,” he was quoted as saying.

Ahmad Zahid has been seen to be a strong advocate of preventive laws, which the Najib administration has slowly begun to remove as part of its reform measures.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak initiated a series of legal reforms after taking office in April 2009, introducing a law that allowed peaceful assemblies in public and repealed the much-dreaded Internal Security Act (ISA) and Emergency Ordinance (EO), both which allowed for detentions without trial.

He had also promised to abolish the Sedition Act.

But critics have questioned the sincerity of the government’s reforms, claiming that subsequent replacement laws such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and the Peaceful Assembly Act are still insufficient to safeguard the people’s rights.

Ahmad Zahid has previously blamed the repeal of the EO for contributing to the spike in crime.

“When the EO was abolished, many of these criminals were released. Now they are taking advantage of the situation. Laws that are introduced to curb crime should get the co-operation from all parties,” he was quoted saying yesterday by The Star daily.

The police have sought to attribute complaints of rising crime to the repeal of the EO, but it is unclear which crimes have been directly linked to the released detainees.