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Saturday, 30 August 2014

NGO: British used sedition to silence Gandhi


NGO: British used sedition to silence Gandhi9:26AM Aug 31 |      8
Proham reminds gov't they are using same law to stifle legitimate discussion.

By Malaysiakini
As the nation celebrates independence from British rule today, the government's use of the colonial-era Sedition Act 1948 has come under severe criticism.

Rights group Proham notes that the British had used the law to silence India's iconic Mahatma Gandhi who had questioned the illegitimacy of the colonial rulers.

"Proham is of the opinion that the Sedition Act 1948 is a legislation which was first introduced by the colonial administration to stifle the activities of independent fighters.

"While it was not extensively used in Malaya then, the situation was very different in the Indian independence struggle when the then colonial administration used it extensively to arrest and detain Gandhi and other Indian independence fighters," said the NGO chairperson Kuthbul Zaman and secretary-general Denison Jayasooria.

The duo in a joint statement today said the Act must not be used to silence "legitimate questions and criticisms" against politicians and rulers as it is part of the democratic process.

Instead, they argued, the government should be "more concerned with those who advocate the use of violence and associated with groups locally or internationally".

The lead up to this Merdeka has seen the government cranking up the use of the Sedition Act against opposition leaders and dissidents, with four being charged last week.

Repeal Sedition Act now

This comes in spite of the government's repeated insistence that Prime Minister Najib Razak's promise to repeal of the Act made two years ago is still on track.

Kuthbul and Denison urged a swift repeal of the Sedition Act, warning that its increased use is "weakening the foundations of human rights" in the country.

The duo said the government should be more open to open debate as part of the democratic process.

"We must be careful that legitimate questions and criticisms on politicians and political parties even those holding public office should not be considered as seditious.

"We must recognise that just because an individual raises a question or thought it does not mean that core theme such as religion, language, special position and monarchy will be dismantled," they said.

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