D5 police task force will aggravate our exasperation

Rama Ramanathan

There is a police task force called D5. Its task is to identify, investigate and punish individuals who “exhibit seditious tendencies.” 

Rama Ramanathan, The Ant Daily

The existence of D5 became known when a police investigator mentioned it to Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli during the course of his investigation for sedition.

The word “sedition” is not one of the five words defined in the Sedition Act.

According to an Oxford dictionary, sedition is “conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of the state or monarch.”

British Imperialists formulated the Sedition Act to legalise the immoral repression of the subjugated people of Malaya. And there’s the nub: what’s legal isn’t necessarily moral.

The coalition which has ruled Malaysia since the replacement of the Union Jack by the Jalur Gemilang over 50 years ago continues to legitimise immorality by curbing the fundamental right to free expression.

Legitimising immorality isn’t the only thing wrong with the Sedition Act. Difficulties inherent in the Sedition Act make it a drain on public resources.

Justice NH Chan wrote “even lawyers and judges have found great difficulty in understanding [the Sedition Act] – let alone an uninitiated policeman.”

Justice Chan, a gifted writer, said “I am not able to explain [this] difficult law in simple language.” Legal precision isn’t required for what I seek to show, and I’m not a lawyer. I’ll keep it simple.

The Sedition Act makes being seditious an offence. It defines “seditious,” as “any act, speech, words, publication, or other thing . . . having a seditious tendency.”

The Act says you show a “seditious tendency” if what you do “may” cause others to hate or show contempt for any Ruler, the Government, the judiciary and any race or class of people.

(I’ll not discuss Section 1(f) which fences Articles 152, 153 and 181 of the Federal Constitution.)

Critics often use words like “misled” or “mistaken” when they comment on policies, actions or decisions. By using those words they protect themselves from charges of sedition because the Act excludes from its ambit ‘things’ which point out Rulers have been misled or mistaken, and ‘things’ which point out errors or defects in Government (excepting Section 1(f)).

So as not to make every criticism an offence, the Act says a thing is not seditious if its purpose is “to point out, with a view to their removal, any matter producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill will and enmity between different races or classes of the Federation.”

Nevertheless, the expected protection could be illusory, for the Act doesn’t require prosecutors to demonstrate intent (mens rea in legalese).

So, who decides if a thing has seditious intent? The answer is “policemen, prosecutors and judges.”

Policemen are clearly challenged, to put it kindly. We often read reports that “the Attorney General has returned (unsatisfactory) investigation papers to the police.” We remember the Tun Dzaiddin led Royal Commission of Inquiry which called upon the police to “establish reasonable grounds . . . before acting on a report of an alleged crime.” We recall our own encounters with less than illustrious policemen.

Prosecutors are little better. We note for instance that the Attorney General had to co-opt a private lawyer to prosecute Anwar.

As for judges, we’re drowning in critical analyses of the grounds of the judgment of the Federal Court in the Allah and Anwar cases. Since Mahathir-Lingam, we know all is not well in the judiciary.

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