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Amendments to Sedition Act Makes Independence Hollow and Must be Withdrawn

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) calls upon the Federal Government to withdraw the Amendment Bill to Sedition Act rather than table it in Dewan Negara. If the Government is adamant in tabling it, all patriotic Malaysians in Dewan Negara must be present and vote against it.

Standing firm with various civil society groups opposing the bill, GBM condemns the bill in the strongest term as it severely curbs civil and political liberties of Malaysians, making our nation’s independence hollow.

GBM asks, how do we celebrate and justify our Merdeka if our forefathers had previously enjoyed more civil and political liberties under the British colonial government than we do today as an independent nation?

The Sedition Act was first enacted in 1948 to counter the communist insurgency but was made even harsher with the subsequent 1970 amendments. It would become very draconian if the 2015 amendments come into force.

The 2015 amendments pose a grave threat to the freedom of Malaysians in two main ways.

Firstly, the net is cast much wider:

(a) the amendment to Section 10  and the addition of Section 10A, impose restrictions on online publication which may include social media
(b) the amendment to Section 3(1)(e) and  3(2)(c)(ii) inserts the word “hatred” in addition to the word “ill will” or “hostility” in the original Act and also an additional reference to religion in addition to the reference of race and class in the original Act.
(c) The addition of Section 4(1A) which criminalises seditious publications“[leading] to bodily injury and damage to property”, disregarding if such acts of violence are carried out by parties who agree or disagree to the opinion expressed in the publication.

Secondly, the punishments are made harsher:
(a)  the amendment to Section 4(1) imposes compulsory minimum sentence of 3 years imprisonment upon conviction and removes fine as an alternative punishment, with no consideration for young offenders, first time offenders or the nature of the offence;
(b) the addition of Section 5A compels the judge to allow the prosecution’s application restricting the accused on bail to travel;
(c)  the deletion of Section 6 which currently provides for reasonable ground for acquittal of the accused and demands larger effort by the prosecution to prove their case.

The fundamental flaw of the Sedition Act is that it disregards intention and hence does not differentiate between agitation of violence and provocation of violence. As the accusation of provocation can be easily made, violence may be effectively encouraged by parties who want to blame others for provocation.

A teenager may be jailed for three years for sharing a Facebook posting and or retweeting a tweet if another party who causes bodily injury or property damage and accuses her of provoking.

Instead of promoting social harmony, the Sedition Act risks fostering impunity of violence and encouraging “politics of amok”.

GBM sees the hasty passing of the Amendment to Sedition Act at the wee hours of 2.30 am of 10 April as an irresponsible act of arrogance and tyranny by the Executive.

GBM condemns in the strongest words the 108 parliamentarians who could not wait to destroy our constitutional freedom, censures the 35 absentee parliamentarians who could not be bothered to be present and vote against the bill and highly commends the 79 real patriots who stood firm in defending the meaning of our independence.

This statement is endorsed by the following member organisations of GBM:

1.The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
2.Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
3. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
4.Tamil Foundation Malaysia (TF)
5.Majlis Perundingan Malaysian Agama Buddha, Kritisian , Hindu, Sikh dan Tao (MCC BCHST)
6.Persatuan Bekas Siswazah Universiti dan Kolej di China, Malaysia (LiuHua)
7.National Indian Rights Action Team (NIAT)
8.Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
9.United Chinese School alumni AssocNs of Malaysia (UCSAAM)
10.Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
11.Japan Graduates Association,Malaysia (JAGAM)
12.Muslim Professionals Forum
13.Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen  (KAMI)
14.Anak Muda Sarawak (AMS)
15.LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)