Thursday, July 12, 2012

Beware the new NATIONAL HARMONY ACT - just repeal the Sedition Act 1948

PM Najib and the BN government is now saying that the Sedition Act 1948 Act will be replaced and replaced with a new Act, to be called the National Harmony Act. The name certainly sounds very nice BUT we really need to look at it - for, I worry, it may be even worse that the current Sedition Act. Remember, this was what happened with the Peaceful Assembly Act...

National Harmony Act - such a nice sweet sounding name. Who will oppose and Act with such a name? If you oppose, people will say that you are against 'national harmony', which is something that all Malaysians want. But, the problem would be that the 'wrapping' may be beautiful but when opened, the contents  may be shocking. (New strategy of the BN is to come up with beautiful sounding titles that no one, on the face of it, would want to object to.... so beware)

Sedition Act certainly needs to be repealed - as it totally curtails freedoms of expression/opinion - No one can criticize or say anything bad against government, judiciary,..... and it does not matter whether what you said was TRUE  - the intention is also deemed irrelevant..

The Act also prevents freedom of expression and speech - and we cannot even 'question any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of Part III of the Federal Constitution or Article 152, 153 or 181 of the Federal Constitution' - The act curtails freedoms necessary for a democracy. When one cannot question certain matters, that ends even the process of developing alternative views and better positions on certain matters, and so, we remain stagnant despite changing circumstances and environment.

Section 3(1) A "seditious tendency" is a tendency -
(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government;
(b) to excite the subjects of any Ruler or the inhabitants of any territory governed by any Government to attempt to procure in the territory of the Ruler or governed by the Government, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;
(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Malaysia or in any State;
(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the subjects of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or of the Ruler of any State or amongst the inhabitants of Malaysia or of any State;
(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia; or
(f) to question any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of Part III of the Federal Constitution or Article 152, 153 or 181 of the Federal Constitution.
Section 3(3) For the purpose of proving the commission of any offence against this Act the intention of the person charged at the time he did or attempted to do or made any preparation to do or conspired with any person to do any act or uttered any seditious words or printed, published, sold, offered for sale, distributed, reproduced or imported any publication or did any other thing shall be deemed to be irrelevant if in fact the act had, or would, if done, have had, or the words, publication or thing had a seditious tendency.
When a person raises a dissatisfaction amongst the people against the government,.... (it is so wide) - he/she can be charged under the Sedition Act...

This is an ancient law - and should be repealed.

My fear of this new ACT, being proposed by Najib, is that it will just extend the areas where freedom of expression/opinions be curtailed, and maybe also increase penalties....hence, further suppression of freedoms.

Now - disclose now the proposed Bill to the public, so we can all have the opportunity to study it and give our comments - have discussions about it, etc. Do not table it suddenly in Parliament - get it passed (because BN has the majority and BN MPs have no right to vote against) within a few days...

National Harmony Act to replace Sedition Act
10:02PM Jul 11, 2012  
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak tonight announced that the Sedition Act 1948 will be repealed and replaced with a new act to be known as the National Harmony Act.

sedition act 1948 170309The decision to repeal the act was to find a mechanism that could ensure the best balance between the need to guarantee the freedom of speech for every citizen and the need to handle the complexity of plurality existing in the country, he said at the dinner of the Attorney-General's Chambers with the prime minister at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

"With this new act we would be better equipped to manage our national fault lines. It will also help to strengthen national cohesion by protecting national unity and nurturing religious harmony," he said, according to Bernama.

Also present were the chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa and attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail.
Earlier, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) 2012 had been passed by Parliament but is not yet in force. When in force it will replace the draconian Internal Security Act.

Besides Sosma, the Najib administration has also introduced the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 which replaces certain sections of the Police Act regarding public gatherings.

It is however uncertain how the repeal of the Sedition Act would have an impact on on-going cases like the case against Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh.

Hindu Rights Action Force leader P Uthayakumar is another politician who is still facing a charge under the Sedition Act and it was only last month that he unsuccessfully tried to declare the Act as null and void at the Federal Court.
Najib said that the absence of an ideal balance could suppress the freedom of speech which was guaranteed by the federal constitution, hinder one's creativity and innovativeness or promote the spirit of chauvinism and extremism.
More open social environment

He said the balance must be achieved in a more open social environment with access to information which could lead to information overflow, an increasing standard of education and socio-economy and rising expectation.

“The provisions proposed in the National Harmony Act will stress on inculcating the spirit of harmony and mutual respect in the Malaysian society made up of various races and religions,” he said.

He said the new bill would be more specific in nature and would enable the government to act against anyone using sensitive issues to break up national solidarity.

damacai school donation lauching 260911 najibThe prime minister said the government would ensure that the provisions of the new Act would not hinder the power to tackle acts that could cause hatred and humiliation or stoke the feelings of disloyalty to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or any ruler.
It also covered acts that could create enmity between the races and question whatever rights, positions, privileges, sovereignty or prerogative protected in the constitution.

“Before formulating the National Harmony Bill, the government wants to invite views and opinions from Malaysians, whether individuals or organisations on matters that need to be addressed in drawing up the legislation.

“The Attorney-General’s Chambers has been tasked as the agency responsible for getting the opinions of all stakeholders,” he said.

Najib said the government was aware that there were groups who considered the Sedition Act as a tool to prevent action or views that were contradictory to the government’s stand, but pointed out that this perception was totally unfounded.

‘Not prevented from critising the government’

“As such, the new provisions will not prevent the people from criticising the government and the administration of justice. Any act that is in contempt of court will be handled by the judiciary itself through the existing provisions in the existing Rules of Court,” he said.

what constitutes sedition 100609Meanwhile, Najib also said the government decided to enforce immediately all new laws and amendments to the existing laws which were announced in the Political Transformation Plan including the Sosma; Printing Presses and Publications Act; and the Universities and University Colleges Act.

“Through the abolition and formulation of the ongoing bills, the government wants to ensure that adequate democratic space is provided for differences of opinion and competing ideas.

“Basically, we want to create one Malaysia where the principles of human rights is upheld, the individual's liberty to express opinions openly is welcomed, and the interest of the individuals and the community is balanced,” he said.

The prime minister also said that the Attorney-General's Chambers could be likened to a compass that showed the direction to ensure that the principles of the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law were always upheld.

“I take great pride that the staff of the Attorney-General's Chambers have never been complacent with the adulation and praise accorded and never over-reacted to any allegation or slander made against the agency,” he said.- Malaysiakihi, 12/7/2012, National Harmony Act to replace Sedition Act

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