The call to abolish the Sedition Act of 1948 seriously compromises inter-ethnic goodwill, respect for each other’s faith, and the unity and future well-being of our nation of Malaysia.
It may be true that a sense of insecurity prevails in the minds of our various communities. The existence of the so called “draconian” Sedition Act cannot, however, be blamed. Therefore, its abolishment will not bring about any improvement.
In other words, in the present atmosphere, the Sedition Act appears to be the deterrence cause to the irresponsible elements in our midst, from making racial and religious slurs without due regard to the well-being of Malaysia. We cannot imagine if we do away with this law.
Our nation still needs the law arising since 1948. Such law insures that our cosmopolitan nation of various faiths and ethnicities will be protected from irresponsible elements creating disunity, hatred, and disharmony.
We contend that no party shall compromise “the letter and spirit” of the Federal Constitution, including the position of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. Laws must be consistent with the Federal Constitution, particularly Articles 3 (the position of Islam as the religion of the Federatiom), 152 (Bahasa Malaysia as the official national language), 153 (the YDPA’s duty to protect the rights of Malays, the natives of Sabah & Sarawak, as well as the legitimate interests of other races), Part III (Citizenship) and 181 (the Rulers’ place).
It is true that of late there have been irresponsible elements making seditious and blasphemous statements, and caricatures of honorable people, that have seriously tested the limits of our patience.
There is a limit to tolerance and if we are not careful, liberalism may plunge us into inter-religious or inter-racial clashes. Surely, we do not want to destroy what we have achieved since Merdeka.
What is needed is that the provisions of this law be enforced and administered fairly and judiciously to all persons. Perhaps we may improve it to avoid unfairness. This is where we should devote our attention – to evolution and implementation, not abolishment.
To that end, perhaps we can enhance the deterrent effect of the Sedition Act by including provisions making it illegal to take any form of seditious or blasphemous action against any religion or race. As suggested by the former Chief Justice, Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamed, this amendment could be inserted in section 3(1) (f) of the existing Sedition Act.
With regard to the feelings of insecurity among our communities, we may suggest that the Goodwill Committee that was so successful in creating communal and interfaith goodwill, respect, and unity after the dark and ugly 13th of May be revived and revitalised.
Let us remind ourselves of the ugly incidents of the 13th of May. Let us pray to God Almighty such a catastrophe will not recur. Let us work towards a truly peaceful and harmonious nation.
Azril Mohd Amin | 18 September 2014
Lawyer | Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights Research & Advocacy (CENTHRA)