The Sedition Act dates back to 19 July 1948. It was amended (expanded and modified) in 1969 after May 13.
Generally the public is aware that the act preempts people from talking bad about the government — I’m giving a layman’s interpretation with this description albeit its actual phrasing is couched in legalese.
Section 3 of the act sets out what is a ‘seditious tendency’, among which 3(1)(e) also says “to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia”.
As you can see, the definition allows such a wide scope that it serves as a catch-all instrument and is open to abuse by the authorities to employ as a tool for putting away their critics and political opponents.
3(1)(f) makes it an offence to question provisions of the Federal Constitution that are protected. Most know that Article 153, i.e. the Malay ‘special position’ and Article 181, the sovereignty of the Raja-raja Melayu, are protected under the Sedition Act.
However not everyone knows that Article 152, i.e. Malay as our national language, is also made exempt from criticism.
During the recent national debate on PPSMI (the teaching and learning of Math and Science in English), there were a lot of dismissive comments heard from the English proponents about how useless Malay is with regard to its standing as a respected language.
Going by the act, the demeaning comments were possibly seditious.
But even if the anti-BM commentators were punished by the law – the penalty for a first-time offender is a jail term of not more than 3 years, a fine of not more than RM5,000, or both – it would not still not be able to compel those people to think any highly of Malay or encourage them to love our national language.
Hannah Yeoh tweets in English. So much for being the anointed saint of Malaysian First.
If she were to switch to BM, I daresay that 90 percent of her 38,120 Twitter followers would not be comfortable with the changed medium of her prolific messages (7,400 tweets thus far).
To their credit, deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong (MCA) and MP for Hulu Selangor P. Kamalanathan (MIC) tweet in bahasa.
Kamalanathan was vilified by the opposition supporters over the above photo which was carried extensively in the Internet.
Cium tangan is a beautiful custom to show respect to our elders.
Partly because the Kodak moment did not come off quite ‘right’ on film and partly because his critics, the non-Malays, are so alien to the culture, Kamalanathan’s good intentions were most unfortunately derailed.
Our country is so fractured along racial lines that even well-meaning gestures become cynical fodder among the so-called Anak Malaysia crowd.
A Race Relations Act (RRA) proposed by the government as one of the two laws to replace the ISA – the other piece of legislation on the cards is the Anti-Terrorism Act – may just make things worse instead of better.
The RRA bill is to be tabled in the next parliamentary session.
Opposition Parliamentarians were derelict in their duty by allowing the Peaceful Assembly Act to be passed. (Read, Bagaimana kalau Perkasa nak demo nanti?) They should have raised public awareness much, much earlier so that those of us who oppose the bill could have made a louder outcry to try and block its passage.
In fact, my attention was only drawn to the inhibitive stipulations of the act by a critical letter to the editor written by someone who’s commented in this blog before.
The self-preoccupied Pakatan MPs failed to sound the alarm on the Peaceful Assembly Bill before it was heard in the Dewan.
Suaram director Kua Kia Soong has expressed his reservations on this next piece of new legislation in the pipeline, saying, “As with the recent Peaceful Assembly Bill, Malaysians should be prepared for some outrageous provisions in this proposed Race Relations Act”.
I share Dr Kua’s fears.
In practice, laws tend to favour the rich and those in power who can influence their execution and enforcement.
One example is Nor Azmi Mohd Amin, a jobless man who was jailed two years for stealing six boxes of shampoo worth RM107.40 at a supermarket. Compare with former Selangor Menteri Besar Mohd Khir Toyo who was given a 12-month sentence for the multi-million ringgit corruption involving the land on which his ‘Bali mansion’ was built.
Dr Kua predicts that the RRA “will end up letting off the far right fascists and making dissidents the usual quarry”. I think so too.
His commentary today can be read in full here.
Doubtless ethnic relations are bad but using the law as a big stick to ostensibly curb hate crime will not succeed in regulating Malaysians to like each other any better or treat each other with greater consideration.
As a voter, I want my MP to concentrate on helping trim our access of laws — a suffocating pile that we’re buried under. Some of them are outdated, archaic laws that oppress. In fact, any future law should have a sunset clause and be subject to periodic review.
The less laws we have the better.
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