The Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail should drop sedition charges against DAP National Chairman and MP for Bukit Gelugor Karpal Singh and Human Rights Party leader P. Uthayakumar to establish the bona fides of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak when announcing that the Sedition Act 1948 will be repealed and replaced with a new act to be known as the National Harmony Act.
In his speech yesterday, Najib said the decision to repeal the Sedition Act was to find a mechanism that could ensure the freedom of speech for every citizen and the need to handle the complexity of plurality existing in the country.
He said that with the new National Harmony Act, the country would be “better equipped to manage our national fault lines” and “help to strengthen national cohesion by protecting national unity and nurturing religious harmony”.
The history of the Sedition Act in Malaysia is the history of an undemocratic, draconian, archaic, authoritarian and repressive law used in a most selective and discriminatory manner by the powers-of-the-day not only to suppress freedom of speech and expression by criminalising dissent but also to target and penalise Opposition personalities.
While the repeal of the Sedition Act is welcome, and had been the subject of demands for democratisation for decades, Malaysians are understandably wary of Najib’s announcement as the promise of “political transformation” by Najib in his Malaysia Day speech last year on the repeal of the Internal Security Act, amendments to the Police Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act, the passage of the Peaceful Assembly Act and the revocation of the Emergency Proclamations, have not resulted in the full democratisation of the rights of Malaysians as illustrated by the high-handed and unconscionable police crackdown on peaceful Bersih 3.0 demonstrators and the post-April 28 state-sponsored campaign of vilification and demonisation against Bersih 3.0 organisers and protestors.
What is equally of grave concern to patriotic Malaysians is the growing culture of impunity by irresponsible quarters to stoke hatred to create racial and religious ill-will and polarisation through a high-level diabolical campaign of lies and falsehoods to perpetuate UMNO/Barisan Nasional hold to power in the forthcoming general election.
The question that must inevitably be asked is whether Najib’s latest announcement on the repeal of the Sedition Act and its replacement by a National Harmony Act is part of the Prime Minister’s programme designed to make Malaysia “the best democracy in the world” and if so, why he is not prepared to make the most important commitment of all, that UMNO/BN and he himself will fully accept and even facilitate a peaceful transfer of power at the federal level if this is the choice of the Malaysian voters in the next general election?