Malaysia’ sedition law is aimed at stifling free speech, says Pakatan Harapan
People must not only be allowed to think but must be taught to think. And this can only happen if we allow questions and debates regarding God, the Holy Books, the Monarchy, and all those other sacred cows such as the education system, language, race-based policies, and much more.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Sedition was a serious crime in England 500 years ago during the reign of King Henry VIII (originally called the Treason Act 1351). Britain had broken away from Rome and had formed its own Church of England. The Roman version of Christianity was then banned from English soil and the recalcitrant or dissenting churches were burned down and stubborn priests arrested and killed.
At that time, around 20% of land was owned by the church (and landowners in Europe were superrich). The Church also owned a lot of gold. All these were confiscated by the crown and overnight King Henry became the richest king in Europe and England was no longer a bankrupt nation.
But the move of breaking away from Rome was strongly opposed so Parliament passed the sedition law that made it a crime to oppose the King or the Church (later passed by Parliament as the Sedition Act 1661 during the reign of King Charles II). The punishment for sedition was death.
Queen Mary (Catholic) and Queen Elizabeth I (Church of England) heavily used the sedition law to punish those opposed to the Crown and the Church (many were put to death). The Monarch was appointed by God through the Church and any criticism of the King or Queen and the Church of England translated to criticism of God, a serious crime 400-500 years ago in Britain.
And that was the law the British introduced to British Malaya back in 1948 when the local population criticised and opposed the formation of the Malayan Union.
Nevertheless, the British were forced to back down and replace the Malayan Union with the Federation of Malaya. But then nine years later, when Malaya was given Merdeka in 1957, the independent government of Malaya did not abolish the 1948 Sedition Act that was introduced to arrest those who criticised the British. They retained the law and used it against those who opposed Umno.
In 2015, Najib Tun Razak ‘strengthened’ the Sedition Act to now include the social media and online criticism of the government.
Sedition (Amendment) Act 2015
Since 2011, former Prime Minister Najib Razak has made several promises to abolish the Sedition Act. However, in 2015, he went back on his word and made amendments to the 1948 Act that strengthened it instead. For example, it included an online media ban and mandatory jail following the arrest of a Malaysian cartoonist over a series of tweets. Sharp criticism followed the passing of the law from the top United Nations human rights official Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
The government has said that these amendments were made to prevent malicious individuals from using the Internet to cause racial disharmony and divisions in Malaysian society. Former Minister of Home Affairs, Zahid Hamidi, stated that the “unity of the country remains our topmost priority,” and that the Act is not meant to suppress the freedom of speech, but to prevent people from making statements that would “destabilise the country”. (Wikipedia)
Today, the government warned Malaysians to be careful to not make any statement that may invoke the Sedition Act.
(Bernama) – Leaders and members of the public need to be careful and not make any provocative statements involving the rulers, race and religion (3R), as it is feared that it could lead to sedition, said experts.
READ MORE HERE: Avoid Provocative Talk On 3Rs, Experts Tell Leaders, Public
Basically, any criticism of the Rulers (Raja-Raja Melayu), race or religion is a crime, and you can be punished under the law.
Former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Malaysia is a country with first-world infrastructure but third-world mentality. That is true and Malaysia still is.
Back in the 1980s, former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Ghafar Baba told Parliament it is not a crime to criticise the Rulers, but asking for Malaysia’s Constitutional Monarchy to be replaced with a Republic can get you arrested under the Sedition Act.
If Malaysia wants to progress and be brought into the modern world, laws that stifle free speech, dialogue, debate, discourse, criticism, etc., must be abolished. There should be no sacred cows, whether it is race, religion, or rulers (the so-called ‘3Rs’). That was Britain hundreds of years ago and should have no place in the modern world.
More importantly, Pakatan Harapan and Anwar Ibrahim’s Reformasi Movement promised to remove all draconian laws if they ever came to power. All those active Reformasi activists are now in the government and are running the country. So it is time to deliver that promise.
Britain, which gave Malaysia the Sedition Act in 1948, abolished its own Sedition Act 13 years ago on 1st January 2010. When is Malaysia going to do the same?
Any country that fears free speech and open discourse, including allowing dissent, can never progress. The mentality of its citizens will forever remain backward. People must not only be allowed to think but must be taught to think. And this can only happen if we allow questions and debates regarding God, the Holy Books, the Monarchy, and all those other sacred cows such as the education system, language, race-based policies, and much more.