Malaysian Bar's Walk for Freedom of Speech

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CLS members with Fr. Clarence

CLS members joined the legal fraternity in the Walk for Peace & Freedom to Parliament House today.

The Malaysian Bar had called for the walk as part of an on-going campaign for the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948.

In recent times, the Act has been used not just towards politicians but against lecturers. Lawyers have not been spared, as some have been charged or are being investigated under the Act. Suaram on their website claimed that ‘since May 2013, 19 people, including five MPs, activists, and an academic, have been charged under the Sedition Law. At least 28 more people, including a journalist, three lawyers, and two MPs, have been investigated under the same law.’

Some of those convicted include:

  • The late Karpal Singh, lawyer and Bukit Gelugor MP who was convicted on 21st February 2014 over his comments made with respect to constitutional crisis 2009 in Perak.

  • Student activist, Adam Adli Bin Abd Rahman, was convicted and sentenced to 1 year jail term on 19th September 2014 over his comments with respect to the 2013 General Election results.

Some of those charged under the Act include;

  • Seputeh MP, Teresa Kok charged on 6th May 2014. The charge appears to be over her Chinese New Year video ‘Onederful Malaysia’.
  • Academician Dr. Azmi Sharom charged on 2nd September 2014. The charge appears to be over his comments on the constitutional crisis 2009 in Perak.
  • Lawyer, Haris Ibrahim charged on 29th May 2013. The charge appears to be over his statements made on the results of the General Election 2013.

Those under investigation include;

  • A teenager in Penang who posted on his facebook ‘I love Israel’. Police reports were lodged and he was subsequently questioned by the police.
  • Lawyer, Edmund Bon – was questioned by the police on 20 September 2014 over his article that stated that Non-Muslims are not subjected to fatwas and the Syariah Court.
  • Law lecturer, Dr. Abdul Aziz Bari who was questioned on 1st October 2014 over a quote published in the news portal on the role of the Selangor Sultan in the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis.

The Malaysian Bar in their open Memorandum to the Prime Minister has stated that the Sedition Act is flawed and is designed to subjugate, suppress and oppress. The Malaysian Bar’s Memorandum also states,

‘It [The Act] is repugnant to the rule of law because it punishes freedom of speech and expression of thought by the use of imprecise and ill-defined offences. It does not require any proof of ill intention or intention to create disorder. Truth is not a defence. Hence, the Sedition Act 1948 in fact criminalises the truth.’

The Walk this morning saw the presence of a large number of lawyers (The Malay Mail estimates 2,000 lawyers were present). Also present were Catholic priest Rev. Fr. Clarence Dass and the Good Shepherd Sisters and their lay associate members. The Walk saw many holding placards including those from the Orang Asli community calling for the abolishment of the Act.

Since 2012, the Prime Minister has mentioned his commitment to repeal the Act. We look forward to the Prime Minister’s commitment to do so and call on the Attorney General to review the cases of all those charged and convicted under the Act and to withdraw those charges.

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