Sedition Dragnet Prompts Lawyers To Hold Peaceful March

The Malaysian Bar will debate a resolution at its extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Friday whether lawyers should hold a peaceful march, after a spate of prosecutions under the Sedition Act 1948.

Sources said the Bar Council was not against the motion seconded by 121 lawyers who included retired federal court judge, Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram and former head of prosecution in the attorney-general's chambers, Datuk Stanley Isaacs.

The motion was proposed by lawyer New Sin Yew.

The motion calls for the council to take immediate steps necessary to organise and lead a peaceful protest at a time deemed suitable to protest against the use of the draconian law.

"The council is not against the motion but hope it can be distilled to be more specific at the EGM," the source told The Malaysian Insider.

It is learned that the lawyers want a peaceful protest held, as organisers need only inform the police of the gathering, as required under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012.

Last week, an emergency council meeting was held to approve holding the EGM, which is scheduled for 3pm at Dewan San Choon, Wisma MCA, in Jalan Ampang.

The council has proposed one resolution which was sent to its 15,500 member earlier this week.

Bar president Christopher Leong (pic, right) said it had to give seven days’ notice for the EGM, which required a quorum of 500.

Under the Legal Profession Act 1976, an EGM could be convened by the council or at the request of at least 150 members.

The last time the Malaysian Bar held an EGM was on May 11, 2012 where, members approved a resolution condemning the police for using “excessive” and “indiscriminate” force to disperse Bersih 3.0 protesters on April 28.

The resolution, passed by way of voting, also demanded apologies from the home minister and inspector-general of police to the public and members of the media over the police’s conduct during the rally.

The Bar, under the leadership of Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, organised the “March for Justice” in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital, in 2007.

It then called for judicial reform and the investigation of a videotape allegedly showing Datuk V. K. Lingam, a key lawyer, fixing judicial appointments and judges’ case assignments.

The actions and intense lobbying led to the formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry which called for corrective action.

On August 27, Seri Delima assembyman R. S. N. Rayer, also a lawyer, was slapped with two separate sedition charges over his "celaka Umno" (damn Umno) remark.

The first charge was for saying it on May 20 during the Penang legislative assembly sitting. The second was for repeating his "celaka" remark to a crowd during a Bukit Gelugor by-election ceramah at Jalan Delima on May 22.

Others who have also been charged with sedition included lawyer and Padang Serai MP N. Surendran of PKR, and Shah Alam MP and PAS central committee member Khalid Samad.

On September 2, Universiti Malaya law professor Dr Azmi Sharom was charged with sedition based on statements in an article over his comments about the 2009 Perak constitutional crisis which was published in a news portal on August 14.

Sabah politician David Orok was prosecuted under the same law on September 3 for allegedly insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad in a Facebook posting two months ago.

A freelance public speaker, Wan Ji Wan Hussein, had pleaded not guilty on Wednesday for making a seditious statement which insulted the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, in a Facebook posting in November last year.

Those found guilty of sedition could face a fine of up to RM5,000 or a maximum jail term of three years, or both.

Elected representatives also risk losing their public office if the court imposes a fine of RM2,000 or more, or at least a year’s jail term.

Yesterday, human rights lawyer Edmund Bon said he was also being investigated for alleged seditious remarks made in an article in January.

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