The only good news in the past six months is the withdrawal of the sedition charge against Universiti Malaya law professor Azmi Sharom, following on the earlier withdrawal of the sedition charge against DAP MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok over a Chinese New Year video “’Onederful’ Malaysia CNY 2014”.
The withdrawal of sedition charge against Azmi, and the earlier withdrawal of the sedition charge against Teresa Kok, are the only silver lining in the gathering of dark clouds following the sudden and shocking sacking of Tan Sri Gani Patail as Attorney-General and the appointment of Tan Sri Mohamad Apandi Ali as the Public Prosecutor of the land six months ago.
But this is not adequate, as both Teresa and Azmin should not have been charged in the first place.
I fully agree with Azmi that Malaysians are relieved that common sense had prevailed, but this must apply not only in the two cases of Azmi and Teresa, but also in all the other cases where the Sedition Act been used to stifle legitimate dissent and criticism.
For this reason, I call on Apandi to drop all charges under the Sedition Act against Opposition MPs, civil society activists, lawyers and cartoonist including Zunar.
Furthermore, Apandi should heed the outrage and opposition, both in Malaysia and in international circles, and announce an immediate halt to his proposal to increase criminal penalties under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) to punish and deter whistleblowers and journalists for publishing information to combat corruption, as corruption has worsened under the Najib administration as compared to the Abdullah and Mahathir premierships.
It is a total mockery of Malaysia’s commitment to combat corruption, elevating it as one of the six National Key Results Areas (NKRAs) of the National Transformation Programme, the talk about “Big Results” in the NKRA agenda to combat corruption, and the hosting of the 16th International Anti-Corruption Convention in Putrajaya from Sept 2 – 4, 2015 for the government to produce the “Big Result” to make the OSA the most repressive and draconian law in democratic countries to undermine and even paralyse anti-corruption efforts.
It is just unthinkable that the Najib government could think of such retrogressive measure after Malaysia had just been named third in the world’s “worst corruption scandals in 2015” and fallen four places in Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2015, and risk being overtaken by China and Indonesia in both TI CPI rank and score within a decade.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers should not take a single step forward to draft proposals to increase criminal penalties under the OSA to punish and deter whistleblowers and journalists from publishing information to combat corruption, unless the Attorney-General is specifically directed, sanctioned or authorised by the Cabinet to do so.
The Attorney-General should not take the sycophantic support of a few UMNO Ministers to his proposal as Cabinet sanction and authority to amend the OSA to clamp down on whistleblowers and journalists from fighting corruption in Malaysia, which can only further impair Malaysia’s image in the world.
(Speech at the Labis DAP Chinese New Year Open House in Labis on Friday, 12th February 2016 at 8 pm)