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Friday, 5 December 2014

SUHAKAM regrets the Government’s decision to retain the Sedition Act 1948

KUALA LUMPUR (5 December 2014) – The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia regrets the
Government’s announcement to retain the Sedition Act 1948 and to strengthen it with additional
provisions, despite its undertaking in 2012 to repeal the repressive and obsolete law.
This disappointing decision does not reflect well on the country when it is on the threshold of
assuming two important, high-profile and responsible international positions in January 2015
namely, membership of the United Nations Security Council and chairmanship of ASEAN, at this
propitious time of its emergence as a regional Community that is increasingly integrated,
dynamic and outward-looking. Upon assumption of these two positions, expectations of
improved performance and high standards on Malaysia in the realm of human rights are
expected to be reinforced and intensified.

While the Commission comprehends the delicate balance between freedom and security, and
recognises that the exercise of freedom of expression may be subject to strict restrictions
prescribed by law, particularly for the protection of the fundamental rights of others, it reiterates
that such restrictions must be balanced, proportionate, unambiguous and just. Further, such
restrictions should comply with international norms on the right to freedom of expression and

Therefore, all laws or amendments to existing legislation as announced, must be centred on the
spirit and principles of the Federal Constitution, the Rukun Negara, and international human
rights principles. These should also take into cognizance the realities of globalisation
characterised by new dimensions of freedom of expression via the Internet and social media.
The Commission strongly urges the Government to ensure that amendments to existing laws or
promulgation of new ones must be based on full engagement and meaningful consultations with
all stakeholders concerned in a manner that is impartial, clear and in compliance with due
process, and not rushed.Given that the Sedition Act was not designed for the purpose of promoting, nurturing and maintenance of national peace and harmony, the Commission reiterates its position that the proposed National Harmony Act must immediately replace the Sedition Act. The Commission
which was consulted on the proposed legislation, is of the view that the legislation can effectively
counter the challenges of absolute freedom of speech, and the perceived threat to democratic
values, while at the same time ensuring that Malaysians enjoy the constitutionally guaranteed
and fundamental right to freedom of expression.

The Commission further opines that the proposed National Harmony Act aims to strike a fair
balance between the right to freedom of speech and expression with a citizen’s right to live in
peace, harmony and stability.

Acting Chairman
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
Dec5, 2014

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