Najib ‘deceived’ Malaysians with promise to repeal Sedition Act, says rights group

Human Right Watch (HRW) Asia deputy director Phil Robertson hit out at the Najib administration saying that the “draconian law” is direct violation of freedom of expression, referring to the charges that have been levelled against PKR vice-president N. Surendran. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Human Right Watch (HRW) Asia deputy director Phil Robertson hit out at the Najib administration saying that the “draconian law” is direct violation of freedom of expression, referring to the charges that have been levelled against PKR vice-president N. Surendran. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 ― Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s promise to repeal the Sedition Act was “designed to deceive” Malaysians and the international community, said a global rights group, Human Right Watch (HRW) claimed.

Human Right Watch (HRW) hit out at the Najib administration saying that the “draconian law” is direct violation of freedom of expression, referring to the charges that have been levelled against PKR vice-president N. Surendran today.

“By engaging in legal harassment and persecution of opponents using a law that is an relic of colonial authoritarianism, Prime Minister Najib demonstrates that he apparently has no abiding commitment to either political moderation or human rights,” said HRW Asia’s deputy director Phil Robertson, in a statement today.

“His prior pledges to amend the Sedition Act sadly stand revealed as hollow rhetoric designed to deceive both Malaysians and the international community,” said Robertson.

Surendran was charged under Section 4 (1) (c) if the Sedition Act earlier today for criticising the appellate court's ruling that overturned a lower court's decision to discharge Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from his second sodomy rap.

The Padang Serai MP and lawyer was accused of committing the offence in a news release titled “Court of Appeal's Fitnah 2 Written Judgement is Flawed, Defensive & Insupportable”, that was issued to news portal Malaysiakini on April 18 this year.

In the release, Surendran had allegedly accused the prime minister of influencing the judiciary in Anwar’s appeal against his second sodomy conviction.

If found guilty, Surendran faces a fine of up to RM5,000, a maximum three-year jail term, or both.

Robertson said that the charge against Surendran was part of Putrajaya’s campaign “systematically pursue its political opponents” using fabricated offences under the Sedition Act.

After Election 2013, PKR vice-president and Batu MP Chua Tian Chang, famously known as Tian Chua, and DAP’s Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, have been hauled to court for purportedly having committed offences under the same Act.

Chua was accused of having uttered seditious words in a forum at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on May 13, 2013, while Kok was charged for sedition in May this year for a satirical Chinese New Year “Onederful Malaysia CNY 2014” video taking a swipe at the national issues such as the Sulu invasion in Sabah last year and the education system.

Najib had said in a July 11, 2012, speech that the Sedition Act represents a “bygone era” and would be replaced by a legislation to safeguard national harmony.

Subsequent to the announcement, Putrajaya had backed the setting up of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), which had put forth 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, earlier this year.

While the NUCC’s proposed legislations are meant to avoid and reduce racial and religious conflicts in the country, various right-wing movements have rebuffed the proposed laws saying they were drafted by “Islamophobes” who are “anti-Malay and anti-Islam”.