Sedition Act Is An Unwanted Relic From Colonial Times, Says NUCC

The National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) rebuffed criticism of its proposed replacements for the Sedition Act, pointing out that the existing law is a leftover from the British colonists who once ruled the country.

The council’s Working Committee on Law and Policy chairman Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa and the committee’s member Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah pointed out that the law which came the end of the Second World War in 1945, was aimed at cracking down on dissent and to suppress freedom movements.

“Are you saying that you need the 1948 Sedition Act which was not done in the Malaysian context but which was done in the interest of the colonisers to remain? “Are you then saying that you want to remain the colonist of the people?” Mujahid said at a press conference today.

The NUCC has come under criticism for putting forward three bills - Racial and Religious Hate Crimes Bill, National Harmony and Reconciliation Bill and National Harmony and Reconciliation Commission Bill — to replace the Sedition Act. NUCC’s proposed legislations are meant to avoid and reduce racial and religious conflicts in the country.

The NUCC was formed after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak pledged to repeal the Sedition Act in July 2012 as a continuation of his pledge to give Malaysians greater civil liberties. Muslim groups hit out at the NUCC over the bills, claiming that the proposed laws were drafted by “Islamophobes” on the council who are “anti-Malay and anti-Islam”.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the NUCC’s proposed laws would lead to meritocracy at the expense on the Malay majority which benefits from decades-long affirmative action policies Saifuddin asserted that the proposed laws are in accordance with the rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution, including Article 153, which provides for affirmative action for Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak in the public service, for scholarships, special government facilities as well as trade permits and licences.

Saifuddin said that the Sedition Act did not define the meaning of sedition and could be easily abused. The former deputy education minister added that the new bills cover all forms of unfair discrimination. “The existing laws are insufficient to address the current problems,” said Saifuddin. “The Sedition Act is an archaic act. Do we after after all these years of independence still need this kind of Act when we have repealed the Emergency Ordinances and the Internal Security Act? “The point is the prime minister made an announcement in 2012 that the act will be repealed, but we don’t know when, but this is the process of repealing,” he added.

Mujahid said the new bills encourage public debate. “While with a consultation process with draft bills in place, we are giving the public something to ponder on... at least the framework of the bill, of what we aspire to do, instead of pressing ahead with a legislation without public feedback,” said Mujahid. “This is probably the first act of Parliament which is undergoing such intense of public consultation... we should be celebrating and enjoying this,” added Saifuddin.

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