Friday, September 19, 2014

Bomb threat does not prevent lawyers from passing Resolution against the Sedition Act with an overwhelming majority

Bomb hoax at lawyers' anti-Sedition Act meeting

The bomb threat at the Malaysian Bar's extraordinary general meeting against the Sedition Act was found to be a hoax.
The police, after scanning the premises with a canine unit for about an hour, found the premises free of any explosives.
Earlier, lawyer Edmund Bon, who is being investigated for sedition, said that an anonymous phone call was received, warning of a bomb in Wisma MCA, Kuala Lumpur. 
"Police (are) scouting. We will continue," tweeted Bon.
Human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen had also tweeted that the crowd "laughed off" the threat when the announcement was made. 
Those present had said that there are about 1,000 lawyers in the hall at the moment, who make up more than the quorum.

Despite the threat, the EGM continued with the motions and the voting process.

The Bar passed a motion to organise a peaceful protest against the recent spate of arrests under the Act, which saw politicians, activists and a law lecturer being charged for making allegedly seditious remarks.

According to Bon, the motion was carried with 701 voting in favour, while 13 against.

In immediate reaction, former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim said that the decision made him proud to be a lawyer.

"They always fight for your rights. You don't see developers engineers, accountants, towkays doing it," he tweeted.

Elections watchdog Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, meanwhile, congratulated the Bar and said Bersih will support the walk.

PKR vice president Nurul Izzah Anwar said the decision is "explosive", while musician Pete Teo called on all to walk with the lawyers.

"(Because) they are walking for you. No more abuse of the law by authorities," he tweeted. - Malaysiakini, 19/9/2014,
Bomb hoax at lawyers' anti-Sedition Act meeting

Bar vows sedition protest march sooner than later

Leong speaking to the media at the press conference following the Extraordinary General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur today. - The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, September 19, 2014.Leong speaking to the media at the press conference following the Extraordinary General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur today. - The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, September 19, 2014. 
A peaceful walk by lawyers to protest the Sedition Act will take place soon, following the overwhelming approval by members of the the Malaysian Bar Council of a resolution to repeal the law, its chairman Christopher Leong said.

"A deadline of three or six months is too long. The walk will happen soon," he told reporters after chairing the Bar's EGM at Wisma MCA in Jalan Ampang today.
Leong said the council needed to look into logistics like venue and time to enforce the resolution.

This will be the third walk organised in the last seven years. Leong said that 973 members voted in favour of the motion to repeal the law and for the council to hold the walk.

"Only 13 voted against it while no one abstained," he said,  adding that the turnout at the EGM was very strong.

He said this reflected members' sentiment on the use or abuse of the law by the government against members of the public.

Leong said the Bar was against the use of the law because "you cannot stop discussion, debate and criticism as these are integral part of a thinking and maturing process".

He said there must be public discourse for mutual understanding and lasting harmony.

"We cannot walk on egg shells with draconian laws hanging over our head.

"The way forward is to engage like debating, discussion and even making an argument," he added.

He said that was the reason the council had started a campaign to get the law repealed apart from organising the walk.

He said the Bar was also against jail terms imposed by the courts on those found guilty of sedition.

"The custodial sentence of 12 months jail today on Adam Adli Abdul Halim is wholly disproportionate with the offence," he said.

Leong said the government had promised to abolish the Sedition Act in July 2012 and the council was hopeful the legislation would be removed from the statute books soon.

"We expected a replacement Act to be ready at the year end but now we are told it will be next year. Too much time has passed but we are prepared to wait," he said.

Leong also clarified that the council was not involved in the drafting of the National Harmony Bill.

"It is a Bill from the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) and we were only asked by its law and policy sub-committee to assist in the drafting because they did not have the resource," he said.

Leong said the contents of the Bill reflected the views of the NUCC.

"We also did not circulate the Bill or place the draft on our website and any accusation against the Bar is unfounded," he said.

Leong said the draft could be accessed at the NUCC website.

Retired chief justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad was among those who claimed that the Bill was drafted by the council and should not be accepted. – September 19, 2014.
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Lawyers to march against Sedition Act

The Malaysian Bar has passed a motion to organise a peaceful protest against the recent spate of arrests under the Sedition Act.

Proposed by the Bar Council, it was passed after debate during the Bar's extraordinary general meeting at Wisma MCA today.

The motion was triggered by the flurry of arrests under the Act, which saw politicians, activists and a law lecturer being charged for making allegedly seditious remarks.

Bar Council president Christopher Leong (right) said that the motion was passed with an overwhelming vote of 701 to 13.

He also commended the high turnout of 986 members today, he said.

"The Malaysian Bar mandates the Bar Council to immediately organise a peaceful protest in the form of a walk," Leong said.

He said that the logistics of the march, including the date and venue, has not been set but waiting “three to six months” would be "too long".

He also vowed that the walk will not be a “one-off” action in the Bar’s campaign against the Act.

"Our #MansuhAktaHasutan campaign launched on Sept 4 will be a fluid and ongoing campaign," he said.


The Bar had also resolved to condemn the Sedition Act and called the government to abide by its pledge to repeal the Act.

It also urged a moratorium on the use of the Act, and for the proposed National Harmony Act not to be a "recast of the Sedition Act".

"The Malaysian Bar is against the use and abuse of the Sedition Act because it is of the view that you cannot stop discussion, debate or criticism as they are all integral parts of the thinking and maturing process," he said.

The Bar had previously led processions against police abuse and the Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011.

The 'Walk for Justice' was held in 2007 where 2,000 lawyers marched 3.5km to the Prime Minister's Department in Putrajaya demanding that a royal commission of inquiry be established to stem the slide in the judiciary.

The march succeeded in compelling then-prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to set up a royal commission of inquiry into the infamous Lingam Tape on appointment of judges.

Meanwhile in Batu Pahat, PAS in its general assembly also passed a motion urging the abolition of the Sedition Act.

Earlier, Mariam Abdul Rashid, the mother-in-law of Muhammad Safwan Anang (right) who was sentenced to 10 months' jail for sedition, made the case to delegates against the colonial-era law.

"We are convinced that more will be arrested and none can escape from BN's abuse of the Sedition Act," she said.

Safwan was given the sentence for remarks made about the last general election, which the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court found to be seditious.

Among other related motions passed at the muktamar today, which was proposed by PAS Muslimat and PAS central committee, is a moratorium on the Sedition Act and the halt of all charges under the law.

The Islamic party also wants a guarantee from Putrajaya that any replacement law for the Sedition Act, as is being mooted by the government, will not be draconian or worse.

Excessive sentence

On a related matter, Bar Council president Leong condemned the "excessive" and "disproportionate" sentence of former student leader Adam Adli Abdul Halim for sedition.

"Since it is a first offence, at best, it should have been a fine," he said.

The Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court today sentenced Adam Adli (left) to 12 months’ jail for urging the toppling of the Umno/BN government, at the same forum as Safwan last year.

On the National Harmony Bill draft, Leong stressed that the Bar had only assisted the National Unity Consultative Council upon the request of NUCC’s law and reform and policy committee.

"We worked with them to draft the contents of the bill and as such, the bill reflects the view of NUCC. We only provided our experience and resources," he said.

He denied that the Bar had circulated the drafts, but said that the provisions "would go a long way to promoting true and meaningful harmony, unity and mutual respect among Malaysians".

The National Harmony Act is said to be the replacement for the Sedition Act.

However, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said the government is still reviewing whether to replace the Sedition Act or just amend it. - Malaysiakini, 19/9/2014, Lawyers to march against Sedition Act

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