Friday, October 17, 2014

More than 2,000 in Malaysian Bar's Walk in Protest of the Sedition Act - Open Memo to PM submitted

There were certainly more than 2,000, whereby lawyers made up about 90%, in the Malaysian Bar's Walk For Peace and Harmony on this hot morning of Thursday, 16th October, 2014. (The Malaysian Bar estimates 2,500, the Bar President estimates at least 1,500 lawyers, Malaysikini says 'almost 1,000', Malaysian Insider says 'hundreds of lawyers' - it certainly would have been to ascertain, as the group was spread out over a really large area, and one really could not see where the crowd ended..) This Walk is what the lawyers wanted at an EGM that was attended by 986 lawyers, far exceeding the required quorum of 500 on 19/9/2014. The Resolution was adopted by an overwhelming majority, and those against it was 13. [see - Malaysian Bar Resolution against the Sedition Act, other laws and actions taken which stifle speech and expression, and matters in connection therewith]

"We are here to claim back democratic public space. We are here to say as much as you try, you can’t stifle speech. You can’t stop expression of thought by thinking Malaysians.

“We are here this morning in the sun, in the car park, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur not for ourselves alone. We do this not for our friends alone, we do this not for our families alone, we do this not for our fellow Malaysians alone but for the future generations of Malaysia.

‎“The Sedition Act is a law specifically designed to shut you up and we have seen the unprecedented use of this abusive act in the last three months against, students, law professors, lawyers, journalists, members of civil society, members of parliament and members of state assemblies.

“We demand the government to abide by its pledge to repeal the Sedition Act.”- Christopher Leong, Malaysian Bar President, 16/10/2014
The action of the Malaysian Bar generated much support even before the Walk - see  Malaysian lawyers ready to walk against Sedition Act at 10.30am, 16 October 2014 

The march began at Padang Merbok at about 11.30am, and headed to the Parliament, which was about 1.4 Km away, whereby thereafter the Bar delegation presented the Memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister. The Open Memorandum is as follows. Below also is some news reports about the event. 

Open memorandum to the Prime Minister of Malaysia — Malaysian Bar October 16, 2014


1.   The Malaysian Bar has walked to Parliament today as part of our on-going campaign for the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948.  It is in order to rid ourselves of an unjust law and unneeded crutch, and for the realisation of a better Malaysia. 

2.   The Malaysian Bar’s walk today is called the “Walk for Peace and Freedom” because we wish to promote a peace anchored by bonds of unity, lasting harmony and true mutual respect amongst Malaysians.  We walk for the freedom from fear and intimidation; freedom from extremism; freedom from divisiveness; freedom from exploitation for personal, sectarian and selfish gains; freedom to question, criticise, discuss and debate; freedom to learn; and freedom to grow and mature.

3.   The Sedition Act 1948 is inherently flawed.  It is designed to subjugate, suppress and oppress.  It is NOT designed to promote peace, harmony and unity.  As a piece of criminal legislation, it is repugnant to the rule of law because it punishes freedom of speech and expression of thought by the use of imprecise and ill-defined offences.  It does not require any proof of ill intention or intention to create disorder.  Truth is not a defense.  Hence, the Sedition Act 1948 in fact criminalises the truth.

4.   The Walk for Peace and Freedom is part of the Malaysian Bar’s response to Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak’s call for all right thinking and moderate Malaysians to stand up and speak out.  The Malaysian Bar walks so as to give voice to such Malaysians.

Malaysia’s Transformation

5.   On 3 April 2009, when Dato’ Sri Najib Razak became Prime Minister, he announced a series of freedom-enlarging measures.  He removed the temporary ban on two news publications.  He released 13 detainees from detention under the Internal Security Act 1960.  He announced the conducting of a comprehensive review of the Internal Security Act 1960.  He declared that “[t]hese decisions are timely as we move to enhance the confidence of our citizens in those entrusted with maintaining peace, law and order, while recognizing the need to remain vigilant of the very real security threats we continue to face as a young nation.”1 

6.   On the eve of Malaysia Day 2011, 15 September 2011, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak took the bold step of announcing that the Internal Security Act 1960 and three Emergency Declarations would be repealed at the next sitting of the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara.  The Banishment Act 1959 and the Restricted Residence Act 1933 would also be repealed.  He also announced that the government would amend the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 to do away with annual printing and publishing permits.  The Police Act 1967 would be amended to allow for freedom of assembly, wherein the requirement for a permit or permission to assemble in public would be repealed.  These announcements were implemented.  

7.   Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak had in April 2012 also introduced amendments to the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 to allow for a broader measure of freedom of expression and association by university students.  These came into force in August 2012.

8.   Following on from these significant developments, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak had on 11 July 2012 announced that the government would repeal the Sedition Act 1948 and replace it with a National Harmony Act.  He stated the following in his speech delivered at the “Majlis Makan Malam Jabatan Peguam Negara Bersama YAB Perdana Menteri”:

“Kerajaan telah membuat keputusan agar Akta Hasutan 1948 dimansuhkan dan digantikan dengan suatu rang undang undang yang dikenali sebagai Akta Keharmonian Nasional.  Keputusan menggantikan Akta Hasutan dibuat kerana kita mahu mencari mekanisme yang dapat menentukan keseimbangan terbaik diantara keperluan menjamin kebebasan bersuara setiap warganegara sesuai dan selaras dengan peruntukan dan jaminan yang terkandung di dalam Perlembangan Pesekutuan dan keperluan untuk menangani kompleksiti kemajmukan yang wujud dinegara ini.  With this new Act we would be better equipped to manage our national fault lines. It would also help to strengthen national cohesion by protecting national unity and nurturing religious harmony….

Kerajaan sedar bahawa umum menganggap Akta Hasutan 1948 sebagai alat kerajaan untuk merencatkan tindakan dan pandangan yang tidak sealiran dengan kerajaan.  Walaupun anggapan sedemikian adalah tidak berasas sama sekali, kita perlu menghapuskan persepsi tersebut.  Lantaran itu, peruntukan-peruntukan baru ini tidak akan menghalang rakyat untuk mengkritik kerajaan dan pentadbiran keadilan….

Pada analisis akhirnya saya teringat kepada pendapat ahli falsafah tersohor Britain, John Locke: “The end of law is, not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom”.  Second Treatise Of Civil Government (1690)….

Melalui pemansuhan dan penggubalan undang-undang yang sedang berjalan, kerajaan mahu memastikan ruang demokratik yang mencukupi disediakan untuk perbezaan pendapat serta persaingan idea.  Pucuk pangkalnya, kita mahu mencipta sebuah Malaysia di mana prinsip hak asasi manusia dijunjung, kebebasan individu untuk menyatakan pendapat secara terbuka diraikan, seraya kepentingan individu dan komuniti diimbangi.”
9.   The Malaysian Bar supports Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak’s programme of progressive and systematic reform and political transformation as set out above.  His thinking and instincts are correct, and we call upon Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak to remain steadfast and to persevere and continue with them.

Evils of the Sedition Act 1948 

10. In this regard, we would point out that the Sedition Act 1948, as with its predecessor the Sedition Ordinance, was conceived by our then colonial masters and used as an instrument of oppression.  It is an archaic and repressive law, and is the antithesis of democracy, rule of law, justice and human rights.

11. The Sedition Act 1948 has been used to stifle speech and expression, to shut out contrary views and voices, to quell dissent and opposition, to constrict and deny democratic space, and to oppress and suppress Malaysians.

12. The Sedition Act 1948 has been justified on the premise that there are matters that are too sensitive to address, speak about or debate; and that this particular legislation is therefore required to ensure and maintain harmony, unity and public order.  Our 57 years of “Merdeka” has clearly shown this to be a myth.

13. The Sedition Act 1948 has instead served to deter or prevent important issues from being properly and genuinely addressed.  Some of these issues are effectively “swept under the carpet” and allowed to fester.  This legislation serves to perpetuate and entrench the racial, religious and other fault lines in our nation. It thus undermines and is counter-productive to efforts to build lasting peace and harmony, strong bonds of unity and real mutual respect in Malaysia.

14. It is no answer to say that we could improve on its use and implementation to avoid abuse. Our history of such oppressive laws, including the Internal Security Act 1960 (since repealed), has shown us that such laws are frequently abused irrespective of their stated purpose. The recent “sedition blitz” where the Sedition Act 1948 has been used to probe and/or prosecute students, law academics, lawyers, a journalist, members of civil society, Members of Parliament and State Assemblypersons is a glaring example of such abuse. To compound the problem, there are clear instances of selective prosecution. The lesson we learn is that the justness in the use of such laws cannot be dependent on the good faith of the authorities. Laws must in themselves be good and just. The Sedition Act 1948 is not such a law.

15. The statements of Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak on his 1Malaysia blog dated 7 August 2012 and 4 April 2013 are to the Malaysian Bar an express recognition by the Malaysian Government that the Sedition Act 1948 is indeed an obsolete and antiquated law that is no longer suitable, relevant or consonant with the times.

An Inclusive Malaysia  

16. The Malaysian Bar further recalls the speech of Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on 26 September 2014 where he said:

“[W]e must pursue a different kind of politics…We must break the cycle where one group gains power only to wield it against the other.  Where marginalisation leads to radicalisation, as people lose confidence in the state’s ability to provide both security and co-existence.  Individuals and ethnic and religious groups need to feel they have a stake in a nation’s success, not its failure.  So we should commit to more inclusive politics.”  

17. In the same speech, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak also said that, “By demonstrating moderation in the political process, we can ensure no-one is left outside society.”

18. The Malaysian Bar could not agree more with Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak’s words on “inclusive politics”.  The fundamental freedoms of speech and expression, giving voice to thoughts and ideas, as well as the right to information, are fundamental attributes of a vibrant and thriving democracy, and that are essential for the development, progress and growth of a nation.  It is robust debate, diversity of opinion and education that would ultimately promote, inculcate and maintain true and enduring unity, goodwill and mutual respect amongst Malaysians.

19. In the same speech at the United Nations, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak said that, “Malaysia stands ready to share its experience of marginalising extremism, maintaining a multi-religious country, where different faiths coexist and prosper.”

20. It cannot be that Malaysia’s sharing of its experience in fostering moderation is that of restricting freedom of speech and expression, arresting, investigating, intimidating and charging individuals under the Sedition Act 1948.  It is precisely the clamping down on views, discourse and expression, and restricting democratic space, under the guise of the Sedition Act 1948, that has the effect of pandering to and encouraging extremist elements, and fomenting disunity and disharmony.   21. It is the use and abuse of the Sedition Act 1948 that has further served to impede the development of a mature, considerate and accepting Malaysian psyche; and perpetuates immaturity; lack of understanding; confusion and ignorance amongst Malaysians; and exploits insecurities, anxieties and fears.

22. The Sedition Act 1948 has no place in our nation, which aspires to be a modern, moderate and progressive democratic society that seeks to respect the rule of law and to engender lasting harmony and unity. The continued existence and use of this legislation only serves to prolong an addiction to a reliance on its draconian provisions as a knee-jerk reaction to expressions of purportedly sensitive issues and dissenting views.

23. We should instead be providing and promoting an environment where Malaysians engage one another in discourse and debate, questions and queries are answered, and criticisms are met with explanations; an environment where we can learn to transform into an inclusive, moderate, harmonious and unified Malaysia.

24. As the Sultan of Perak, His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Muizzudin Shah said in his speech at the University Malaya 53rd Convocation held on 13 October 2014, 

“… Minda terbuka dapat memerdekakan jiwa individu daripada sebarang prejudis dan buruk sangka. Minda terbuka akan mengupayakan seseorang memahami malah menghormati pandangan pihak lain betapa berlainan sekalipun. Minda terbuka akan menyuburkan perasaan sabar dan toleransi untuk bersedia mendengar hujah yang berbeza betapa sekali tidak dipersetujui. Minda terbuka akan memberikan ruang untuk membolehkan lahir dan tumbuhnya idea baru, menyemarakkan budaya inovasi dan menyuburkan minda kreatif. Minda terbuka adalah komponen amat penting untuk membantu mengukuhkan amalan demokrasi di dalam sesebuah negara… 

…Malah minda terbuka adalah faktor yang telah memungkinkan tertubuhnya sebuah negara bangsa melalui kejayaan mencantumkan rakyat daripada pelbagai agama, negeri, kaum, budaya dan bahasa menjadi satu warga kepada sebuah negara Malaysia yang merdeka; minda terbuka juga berjaya menyatukan matlamat di kalangan sembilan Raja yang bersemayam di istana dengan rakyat jelata di serata kota dan desa. Nyatalah minda terbuka adalah aset sementara minda tertutup adalah liabiliti.”

(Our translation: “…Open-mindedness liberates the spirit of an individual from any form of prejudice or ill-will. Open-mindedness enables one to understand and respect the views of others no matter how contrarian they may be. Open-mindedness enables patience and tolerance to be able to listen to dissenting views no matter how disagreeable they may be… 

…Open-mindedness is the factor that has made possible the establishment of a nation by the successful union of people of diverse religions, states, ethnicities, culture and language to form an independent country called Malaysia; open-mindedness also achieved unity of purpose among nine Rajas who reside in the palace with the citizens of all the cities and the countryside. Clearly, open-mindedness is an asset whereas close- mindedness is a liability.”)

Towards a Peaceful, United and Harmonious Malaysia

25. Lasting harmony and unity requires a lot of hard work, patience, understanding and education; not suppression, prosecution and punishment.  Yes, the process could be long and would be painful; we will fumble and make mistakes, even serious mistakes, but we will learn and move forward.  It is folly to think and believe that the Sedition Act 1948 or laws similar to it are the answers to promote, inculcate and maintain true lasting harmony and unity.  How wrong and misconceived can we be to believe that force and punishment would engender respect and goodwill.  It instead impedes learning, discourse, growth and maturity.

26. We therefore have grave concerns that the intended National Harmony Act should not seek to recast the Sedition Act 1948 either in whole or in part.  We recognise that no freedom is without limits.  Thus, incitements to, threats of or acts of racial or religious violence, and bringing into hatred the Royal Institution, are not acceptable in Malaysia.

27. These could, however, be dealt with by other legislation.  The intended National Harmony Act or any replacement legislation by any other name should not seek to criminalise thought, speech and expression. It should instead provide a framework that recognises and encourages interaction, discourse, debate and learning.  If there is to be a need for some measure of criminal penalties, then such measures must be limited – unlike the provisions of the Sedition Act 1948 that are imprecise and, also unlike other criminal offences, the Sedition Act 1948 does not require mens rea, that is the element of intent – the scope of the new offences must be narrowly defined and confined, and the threshold for breach must be set higher. Only threats of or incitement to, and actual ethnic or religious violence to persons or property should be criminalised, and the element of intention must be present.

28. A copy of the Resolution of the Malaysian Bar calling on the Malaysian Government to abolish the Sedition Act 1948 that was passed at its Extraordinary General Meeting on 19 September 2014 is attached for further information and reference.  The Resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority of those who attended the Extraordinary General Meeting.  The Resolution sets out in detail the way in which the Sedition Act 1948 has been abused, recounts the recent and unprecedented wave of arrests, investigations and charges, calls for the immediate repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 and the dropping of all action thereunder, and supports the proposed National Harmony legislation. 

29. The Malaysian Bar recognises that Islam is the religion of the Federation and other religions may be practised in peace and harmony; the special positions of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities; and the sovereignty of the Rulers — these are clearly set out in the Federal Constitution.  The Malaysian Bar upholds the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the land.  The call to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 is not a challenge to those provisions.

30. The Royal Institution, for example, is an integral and important part of our nation-building.  Malaysians look to the Rulers to be Rulers and champions for all Malaysians, and not only for a segment of Malaysians. 

31. There are extremist and irresponsible elements in our society.  They spread misinformation, use intimidation and divisiness. They exploit fear and insecuritites.  They seek to drive a wedge between Malaysians and polarise us.  
Do not allow them to succeed.

32. The Malaysian Bar recalls the preamble to the Rukun Negara: we are a nation dedicated to achieving a greater unity of all her peoples; seeking to maintain a democratic way of life; creating a just society; ensuring a liberal approach to Malaysia’s rich and diverse cultural traditions; and building a progressive society and nation.

33. The Malaysian Bar therefore urges Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak and the Malaysian Government to continue to commit to and promote the building of a fair, just, harmonious, unified, moderate and progressive Malaysia, and reject all forms of bigotry, racist and religious extremism; to stay the course and to abide by its original and oft-repeated public pledge and promise to repeal the Sedition Act 1948. 

* Christopher Leong is the President of the Malaysian Bar Council.
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You can’t stifle speech, says Malaysian Bar president at start of anti-Sedition Act march
Friday, 17 October 2014 07:55am
Image©Malay Mail (Used by permission)
by Ida Lim and Yiswaree Palansamy

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 ― They started gathering at the Padang Merbok carpark from before 10am and by the time the Malaysian Bar Council’s “Walk for Peace and Freedom” was slated to start, there was a crowd of about 200 lawyers andmembers from several non-government organisations.

Malaysian Bar president Chris Leong told the crowd, “We are here to claim back democratic public space. We are here to say as much as you try, you can’t stifle speech. You can’t stop expression of thought by thinking Malaysians.

“We are here this morning in the sun, in the car park, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur not for ourselves alone. We do this not for our friends alone, we do this not for our families alone, we do this not for our fellow Malaysians alone but for the future generations of Malaysia.

‎“The Sedition Act is a law specifically designed to shut you up and we have seen the unprecedented use of this abusive act in the last three months against, students, law professors, lawyers, journalists, members of civil society, members of parliament and members of state assemblies.

“We demand the government to abide by its pledge to repeal the Sedition Act.”

While waiting for the march to start, the energetic crowd chanted “Mansuh Akta Hasutan” and “Hidup Malaysia.”

Various members of the Bar Council like Steven Thiru, Firdaus Husni, Syahredzan Johan, and Richard Wee took turns to address the crowd which grew to about 400 people.

Steven, the Malaysian Bar’s vice-president, said Malaysians could no longer wait for the government to repeal the Sedition Act, noting that two years had passed since the prime minister pledged to repeal the colonial-era law.

“We are stand here today because we defy all forms of oppression, we defy all forms of injustice, we defy all forms of repression.

“We want the Sedition Act to be repealed, not tomorrow, now. We are not waiting for next year,” he said, reiterating his observation that the law has been used to the “hilt”.

Andrew Khoo, the co-chair of the Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee, noted that the United Nations is set to vote for new members into its Security Council — where Malaysia is vying for a spot.

“We must hold the government to account, If you want to play in the international stage, you must make sure the rule of law applies equally back home in your backyard.

“We will keep the pressure up. We will never relent until we have the abolition of the Sedition Act and rule of law in the country,” he told the lawyers gathered there in their black suits, with some wearing the Bar Council's blue caps made for the walk.

A high-spirited crowd numbering more than 1,000 — mostly lawyers — began their march at 11.40am in a peaceful and orderly manner from the Padang Merbok car park on Jalan Parlimen in the city centre, with the Bar Council’s marshals and police standing by on the pavements to help direct traffic.

They arrived in front of the Parliament building just a few hundred metres down the road at about noon.

Leong estimated that around 1,500 to 2,000 lawyers turned up for the march today.

In just nine months this year, 12 cases have been prosecuted under the Sedition Act ― the highest figure since 2009 ― raising alarm in civil society of Putrajaya’s perceived clampdown on dissent.

Eight cases were brought to trial under the Sedition Act in 2013, while only one case each made it to court in both 2009 and 2011; there was a complete absence of sedition charges during 2010 and 2012.

Today’s march will be just the fourth in the Malaysian Bar’s 67-year history.

Recent marches include the 2007 “Walk for Justice” and the 2011 “Walk for Freedom to Walk” over a judicial appointment scandal and the PAA Bill, respectively; both drew estimated crowds of between 1,000 and 2,000 people.- Malay Mail from Malaysian Bar Website

By Koh Jun Lin and Lee Long Hui

Lawyers march against Sedition Act 

Almost 1,000 protesters, mostly lawyers, marched to Parliament today against the Sedition Act 1948.

The protesters were seen milling about Padang Merbuk in the Kuala Lumpur city centre as early as 9.30am, and started their march at 11.40am after chanting slogans and hearing speeches by Bar Council representatives.

Among the prominent personalities present were Bar Council president Christopher Leong (right), former Bersih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan, her successor Maria Chin Abdullah, Parti Sosialis Malaysia secretary-general S Arulchelvan, Himpunan Hijau chief Wong Tack, and opposition parliamentarians Teo Nie Ching, Nga Kor Ming, R Sivarasa, Ong Kian Ming and Gobind Singh Deo.

The protest was organised by the Bar Council, with the support of the Malaysian Bar, which overwhelmingly voted in favour of holding the protest during an emergency general meeting on Sept 19.

However, according to the Malaysian Bar's estimate 2,500 people joined the march.

Dubbed “Walk for Peace and Freedom”, it is the fourth such protest held by the Bar Council in its 67-year history.

The last was in 2011 to oppose a bill that is now known that the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.
A group of Orang Asli, dressed in traditional garments, and university students chanting for academic freedom, were also seen marching with the lawyers.

A small band – with guitar, didgeridoo, tambourine, and a small hand drum – played music while marching and at the sidewalk outside Parliament.

Police presence at the protest was light, mostly to direct traffic, with the help of Kuala Lumpur City Hall enforcement officers and the Bar Council’s own rally marshals.
Rally and counter-rally

Upon reaching the parliament, 10 Bar Council representatives led by Leong met with Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Mah Siew Keong, who received a memorandum from the protesters on behalf of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak

The temperature was a scorching 30 degrees Celsius, with little wind and scattered clouds.
Despite the heat, most of the lawyers were dressed in black jackets – their full court attire – and chanted slogans outside the parliament while waiting for their leaders to return.

“Long live the people! Abolish the Sedition Act!”, the protesters chanted, while carrying anti-Sedition Act banners and placards.

One particularly good-humoured placard read: “Bloody hell it’s hot. Abolish the Sedition Act and let’s go for ice cream.”

Representatives from journalist group Gerakan Media Marah (Geramm) were at the protest, along with a handful of off-duty journalists, following a call by the group to walk in solidarity with the lawyers.

Meanwhile a group of about 10 youths held a counter rally at the Bank Negara roundabout at the same time.

The group, with some wearing face masks, held placards with messages like 'Preserve Sedition Act'.

Protest is public feedback

At about 1pm, about an hour after entering Parliament, Leong emerged with his entourage to announce the protest a success.

“We have achieved what we have set out to do today, which is to convey our views on your behalf to the prime minister, via Minister Mah (Siew Keong),” he said, before thanking the participants for coming and the police for facilitating the protest.

Nevertheless, he vowed that the Bar Council will continue its campaign against the Sedition Act until it is abolished.

Leong repeated his speech at least three times, each time moving from one part of the crowd to another to address them via a megaphone.

Speaking to reporters later, Leong claimed that the number of lawyers who attended the protest number between 1,000 and 1,500, but is unsure how many non-lawyers participated.

Leong said that this walk is in response to the effort initiated by the prime minister to obtain public feedback on the abolition of the Sedition Act and its replacement.

He hoped the leader would remain steadfast and committed to his pledge and promise.

“As they say, ‘Janji Ditepati’ (Promise Fulfilled), so we hope that would be the case in this occasion,” he added.

The protesters dispersed peacefully at 1.15pm.- Malaysiakini, 16/10/2014,
Lawyers march against Sedition Act

Malaysian Bar marches against sedition

More than 600 lawyers gathered at Padang Merbok from 9.40am today for the ‘justice and freedom walk against the Sedition Act’. Leading them is Bar Council president Christopher Leong (centre). – The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, October 16, 2014.More than 600 lawyers gathered at Padang Merbok from 9.40am today for the ‘justice and freedom walk against the Sedition Act’. Leading them is Bar Council president Christopher Leong (centre). – The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, October 16, 2014. 
For the fourth time in its history, the Malaysian Bar today rallied, this time, against the Sedition Act 1948 demanding that Putrajaya repeal the colonial-era law, which in recent weeks had been used against opposition politicians and activists.

In a fiery speech at the start, Bar Council president Christopher Leong said the act was created to shut people up and Putrajaya was using it just to do that.

“This is an unprecedented abuse against lawyers, students, journalist and civil society. We are here to claim back the democratic public place. As much as you may try, you cannot stop our freedom of expression, our thoughts. We will ask why," said Leong.

Despite the heat, hundreds of lawyers in suits gathered at Padang Merbok from 9.40am today for the “justice and freedom walk against the Sedition Act”. The Malaysian Bar previously walked in protest against the Peaceful Assembly Act in 2012, against allegations that judicial appointments were fixed in 2007 and amendments to the Societies Act in 1982.

The group began walking towards the Parliament at about 11.40am, with lawyers holding placards and banners, chanting "Hidup Hidup Rakyat" (Long live the people) and "Mansuh Mansuh Akta Hasutan" (Abolish Sedition Act).

About 10 of them will be going into the Parliament to hand over the memorandum to the representative of the Prime Minister's Department, calling for the Sedition Act to be abolished.

Leong said the group then met with Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Mah Siew Keong and handed him the memorandum that called upon Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to repeal the Sedition Act as he had promised in 2012.

In the memorandum, the Malaysian Bar also urged Najib and Putrajaya to commit and promote the building of a fair, just, harmonious, unified, moderate, progressive Malaysia and reject all forms of bigotry, racist and religious extremism.

After the meeting, Leong, in a statement, admitted that changes would take time and said that the Bar Council would continue to play its role within the period.

"We are saying that you cannot punish people because they are expressing their thoughts, because you did not like what they said or because you did not agree with what they said.

"The Sedition Act is in fact a counter-productive measure to better Malaysian.”

He said the Malaysian Bar was aware that there were some fault-lines when it came to a multiracial country but the fault-lines should not be dealt using the act.

"We have to deal with it through dialogues and exchanging of ideas.”

Putrajaya embarked on a sedition blitz in recent weeks even after Najib had continued to give assurance that he would abolish the draconian law.

However, Putrajaya was also facing pressure from Umno grassroots and some Malay groups to retain the law, which they said would protect the position of the Malays, Islam and the monarchy.

The prime minister also appeared to renege on his promise with a statement from his office that said Putrajaya would tread carefully with the Sedition Act as it had not yet decided whether to go for a complete repeal, to retain it with amendments, or to introduce new laws.

The statement was contradictory to Najib's pledge two years ago to repeal the Sedition Act and replaced it with a National Harmony Act.
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