Well, there have allegedly been some amendments made to the Bill to amend our Sedition Act but not enough. This draconian Act must be repealed.
- apparently the no bail clause have been removed
- the minimum sentence of 5 years have been reduced to 3 years BUT still not good enough. Just set the maximum penalty and return the discretion with regard sentencing back to the Judges... The original proposed amendment was as follows - I propose the original wordings be retained whereby judges will have the discretion when it comes to sentencing looking at the circumstances of each case
(ii) by substituting for the words “for a first offence to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both, and, for a subsequent offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years” the words “to imprisonment for a term of not less than three years but not exceeding seven years”; and
Bar:- Investigative Powers of the Police Must Not be Abused to Intimidate, Harass, Oppress and Terrorise
Jahabar and Ho released on police bail - but police keeping laptops? After release, statement recorded??
The other question that we must be asking is whether our 26 absent Opposition MPs are in Parliament today when the Sedition Act amendments are being debated.
See earlier post:-
The debate is ongoing - follow the link to see the Parliamentary proceedings live
The most significant change is the removal of a clause stipulating that sedition is to be a non-bailable offence.
Another crucial amendment is the imposition of a minimum three-year jail term, instead of five years.
Other changes are replacing the offence of “importing” seditious publications with the offence of “propagating” seditious publications.
The government also has withdrawn an illustration on the definition “secession sedition”, but the amendment for such an offence stays.
The illustration that was deleted read “A excites a person or a group of persons to demand for the secession of state B from Malaysia. Such act is seditious.”
The original illustration was placed in the initial bill was “to make clear” that the act of exciting a person on secession is seditious.
The amendment bill was restructured after the government received much criticism for introducing new provisions, including no bail upon arrest and a maximum jail sentence of 20 years for offences causing bodily injury and damage to property.
Among the staunchest critics of the Sedition Act amendment bill, ironically, were not opposition MPs but backbenchers in the likes of Azalina Othman Said (Umno-Pengerang) and Bung Mokhtar Radin (Umno-Kinabatangan).
Gov't tweaks Sedition Act - for better or worse?
The ‘strengthened’ version of the Sedition Act promised by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is finally here and was tabled in Parliament today.
In its explanatory note of the amendment bill today, it explained away Najib's broken promise to abolish the Sedition Act 1948, claiming increased abuses after the pledge to repeal was made.
"Among the issues of concern are the increasingly harmful and malicious comments and postings and publications that jeopardise that most valued ideals of Malaysia - tolerance and racial and religious harmony in a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation," it said.
The amendment bill is 11 pages long which will see changes to five sections of the Act and creation of further four new sections to the colonial-era law. Debate on the bill is expected to begin tomorrow with stiff opposition from Pakatan Rakyat MPs.
Malaysiakini summarises the mooted changes to the Sedition Act 1948 in 12 simple points.
1. It's okay to criticise the government. Seriously.
Previously, criticising the government to point out its flaws was already allowed under the Sedition Act 1948 but inciting hatred, contempt or dissatisfaction against the government were considered seditious.
That is no longer the case under the amendment. However, the Malay rulers are still off limits and inciting hatred, contempt or dissatisfaction against that institution will land you in jail for a lengthier time.
2. The judiciary can be criticised too
Police swooped on several individuals in February after they made unsavoury comments about the judiciary for sentencing opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to jail, Now, that may no longer be possible.
Under the amendment, it will no longer be considered seditious if someone expresses hatred, contempt or dissatisfaction against the administration of justice in Malaysia.
3. It is, however, seditious to insult religion
Race and religion are closely intertwined in Malaysia but the former Sedition Act confined the offence only to race ie. “to promoting ill-will and hostility among the different races in Malaysia”.
Under the updated Sedition Act, it specifically mentions that it is also an offence to "promote feelings of ill-will, hostility or hatred between persons or groups of persons on the grounds of religion" too.
4. You can now insult "deviants"
In the explanatory notes of the amendment bill, it explained that when it comes to the religion of Islam, it refers to the Hukum Syarak and it shall not include deviant teachings.
This means those adhering to such teachings deemed to be deviant in Islam will not enjoy protection even if ill-will or hatred is incited against them.
5. It's easier now to prove sedition over race and religion
Previously, for someone to commit sedition over race, they must fulfill both the conditions of promoting ill-will AND hostility between the races.
Now however, any one of these elements is enough to prove sedition, namely promoting ill will OR hostility OR hatred among the races. This applies for religion too.
6. Jail, jail and more jail
Social activist Hishammuddin Rais was in January spared jail and let off with a RM5,000 fine for his remarks about overthrowing the government which were deemed to be seditious.
The updated Sedition Act, however, removes a fine as punishment, replacing it with a compulsory jail term.
Furthermore, the old law provided for a maximum jail term of up to three years allowing the courts to maybe let off an offender with only a few months jail.
But the latest version of the Sedition Act guarantees a convicted person a minimum of three years behind bars which can go up to seven years.
The new Sedition Act also stipulates a new kind of offence whereby any act of sedition that leads to bodily injury or damage of property will be punishable by at least five years in jail and up to 20 years behind bars.
7. And no bail, hombre
For sedition offences resulting in bodily injury or damage to property, an accused can be denied bail if this is backed by a public prosecutor in writing ie. that it would not be in public interest to grant bail.
This particular offence also excludes all forms of leniency meaning a young offender or a first-time offender will not be let off lightly.
8. Passport must be surrendered
In what appeared to be a response to those who fled the country after being charged with sedition, anyone charged with committing sedition (Section 4) must now surrender their passports.
If the accused has yet to have any international travel documents, the courts can order the Immigration director-general not to issue any such documents until the case is resolved.
9. Harder bite on electronic media
Even though the old Sedition Act has been used to charged individuals for offences committed online, the updated law makes it clearer by defining publications to include "by electronic means".
It also now allows the courts to issue a prohibition order requiring the person who publishes allegedly seditious material to remove it from the electronic platform and further bar the person from accessing any electronic devices.
Failing to remove the said material is an offence punishable with a fine of up to RM5,000 or a one-year jail term or both.
Subsequent failure to comply after conviction will be subjected to a RM3,000 fine and a year's jail in default of payment.
This power is now granted to a Sessions Court, compared to a High Court under the previous law.
10. Censorship of anonymous seditious material
The updated Sedition Act will also allow a public prosecutor to apply to the Sessions Court to instruct the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to block access to any online publication deemed seditious.
This only applies to cases where the publisher of the material deemed seditious is anonymous.
11. Indirect sedition also an offence
Previously, it was an offence to print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute or reproduce any seditious material.
However, an additional phrase has been added to the Act namely "cause to be published".
This means someone can be guilty of sedition even if he or she was not directly involved with the material ie. such as hosting the material for an alleged offender.
However, protection clauses such as not having knowledge of the seditious material still stand.
12. Secession clearly a no-no now
Even though those advocating for secession have been charged under the old Sedition Act, the offence was never specifically spelled out.
The old Sedition Act merely said it was offence to “excite” people to alter the existing territorial make up other than by lawful means.
While the updated version maintains this wording, it has added an illustration to further highlight that secession is a no-no: " ’A’ excites a person or a group of persons to demand the secession of ‘State B’ from Malaysia. Such an act is seditious". - Malaysiakini, 7/4/2015, Gov't tweaks Sedition Act - for better or worse?