|Syahredzan, Kuthubul, Denison, Zaman & Steve|
Proham hosted a Roundtable Discussion on the Sedition Act raising the question “Is it a mechanism to protect constitutional guarantees or a political tool to suppress freedom of speech?” This was held on the 17th of November 2014 at the Law Faculty, University Malaya.
We received reflections from Datuk Kuthubul Zaman (Proham Chairman), Tan Sri Zaman Khan (Former senior Police officer), Mr Syahredzan Johan (National Young Lawyers Committee) and Mr Steven Thiru (Vice Chairman of the Malaysian Bar).
We heard the concerns of a section of Malaysian society who strongly feel that the repeal will open the flood gates to challenge the position of Islam, the national language, the special position and the royalty.
We were told how the Sedition Act was used. Reference was made to Gail Davidson’s article “Lawyers and the Rule of Law on Trial : Sedition in Malaysia; An Analysis of Malaysia’s Sedition Act” in response the 2000 Karpal Singh’s Sedition trial where the charges were dropped, and the more recent charge on which he was convicted. The current twelve Sedition cases before the courts since May 2014 clearly contradicts the position of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who promised to repeal the Sedition Act.
We also heard comments on the emerging “climate of fear and self-censorship” which negatively impacts democratic freedoms in Malaysia, especially in a time when the global trend is towards greater democracy and human rights compliance.
We heard reports of courageous Malaysians who are campaigning through raising awareness, and the signature campaign for the repeal of the Sedition Act
We explored the alternatives to the Sedition Act which will still protect constitutional guarantees and will promote harmony, reconciliation and mediation among groups and communities through the proposed Harmony Laws.
We are of the opinion that the repealing of the Sedition Act will in no way affect the constitutional position of the four core concerns (Islam, Malay Language, Special Position & Rulers), as those provisions are protected in the Federal Constitution.
We advocate democratic freedoms and human rights compliance as the best way forward to dispel ethno-centric nationalists and intolerance to diversity positions. Objective and rational discussions will dispel emotive and irrational viewpoints thereby addressing negative positions which breed hatred, suspicion and misguided opinions.
We recognise that some sections might incite hatred and advocate violence but we are of the opinion that there are provisions within the Penal code which can be used to sufficiently address those sections.
Therefore Proham calls on the Federal Government to withdraw all sedition cases, repeal the current act and formulate a formal grievance mechanism which incorporates mediation and conflict resolution.
Issued on behalf of Proham by Datuk Kuthubul Zaman (Proham Chairman) and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Secretary General)
Nov 18, 2014