Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Akta Hasutan 1948 - Undang-Undang Draconian?

Press Release

Sedition Act is an affront to democracy

The Bar Council is shocked and troubled that the Attorney-General has proceeded to charge YB Karpal Singh under the Sedition Act 1948 (“Act”) for his statements on the issue of the removal of the Perak Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Nizar Jamaluddin by HRH Sultan Azlan Shah and the events that have unfolded in that state.

The Bar Council has been steadfast in its view that the Act is a draconian and archaic piece of legislation that undermines democratic institutions and is an absolute affront to democracy. Along with other authoritarian and repressive legislation, the Act severely encroaches upon the public enjoyment and exercise of fundamental civil liberties.

The prosecution of YB Karpal Singh will be widely perceived as being selective and an attempt to pacify the partisan calls from certain influential sections within UMNO who were pushing for his prosecution. They have even outrageously called for the revocation of his citizenship.

It is abundantly clear that YB Karpal Singh had only voiced his opinion that the decision of a Ruler of a State in this area of constitutional law and practice is justiciable. At no time did he voice disrespect for or challenge the institution of the monarchy in any way. True to his calling as an advocate and solicitor, YB Karpal Singh had, without fear or favour, spoken of the possibility of a legal remedy and not advocated any recourse outside the ambit of our Constitution. This is surely permissible under the Constitution and cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, amount to sedition.

Many issues of public concern have arisen in the wake of the unprecedented events unfolding in Perak. Legal and public opinion are divided as to what is legally permissible and what is morally right. We urge the government to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law and to democratic processes by encouraging open discourse on issues of concern to the Malaysian public.

Any attempt to stifle public opinion by resorting to the Act is a sure act of regression that is antithetical to democratic principles.

We strongly urge the government to seriously review the Act with the aim of its eventual total repeal. We are concerned with the series of recent prosecutions against those exercising the freedom of speech and call for an immediate end to such harassment. The charge against YB Karpal Singh must be immediately withdrawn.

Ragunath Kesavan
Malaysian Bar

17 March 2009

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