Treat sedition suspects as guilty until proven innocent, Umno MP says

Tanjong Karang MP Datuk Seri Noh Omar said the nation’s peace was of greater importance than an individual’s civil liberties and legal rights. — file picture
Tanjong Karang MP Datuk Seri Noh Omar said the nation’s peace was of greater importance than an individual’s civil liberties and legal rights. — file picture

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Individuals charged under the Sedition Act 1948 must be made to prove their own innocence, an Umno lawmaker said today when calling for the colonial-era law be made stricter.

In making his suggestion to shift the burden of proof, Tanjong Karang MP Datuk Seri Noh Omar said the nation’s peace was of greater importance than an individual’s civil liberties and legal rights.

“The burden of proof should be on the person who’s charged,” Noh Omar said during the debate of Budget 2015 in Parliament here today.

Under the existing legal system, accused individuals are presumed innocent until proven otherwise, and the onus is on the prosecution to prove a person’s guilt. This presumption is also a fundamental human right.

Noh’s suggestions also comes despite repeated insistence by Putrajaya that it will repeal the Sedition Act as pledged in 2012, and replace it with laws on national harmony.

Lawyers have criticised the Sedition Act as the accused’s intention is not required to be established for a conviction.

More than 30 critics of the government have been investigated, charged or convicted under the Sedition Act since March last year, in what is seen as a crackdown against lawyers, activists, academics and even journalists.

The Malaysian Bar and civil society have urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to fulfil his 2012 pledge to repeal the colonial-era law to protect freedom of speech.

De facto law minister Nancy Shukri, however, said recently that the Sedition Act may be complemented with new laws instead of being abolished.

Lawyers are set to demonstrate in the city centre on Thursday for the repeal of the Sedition Act.  

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