KOTA KINABALU, March 16 — Four volunteers of the outlawed Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia (SSKM) movement were charged under the Sedition Act today for being in possession of pamphlets allegedly propagating Sabah’s secession from the federation.
The four, Jemmy Liku Markus Ratu, 32, Erick Jack William, 28, Joseph Kolis, 29 and Azrie Situ, 24 were accused of distributing the pamphlets at the Tuaran open market at around 10am on February 1 this year.
The pamphlets, which bore SSKM’s unofficial logo, claimed to promote the rights of North Borneo folk, and said the movement hopes to collect 100,000 signatures for a petition to be sent to the United Nations to show that Sabahans are no longer interested in being a part of the Malaysian federation.
All four pleaded not guilty to the charge today under Section 4 (2) of the Sedition Act 194, which carries a maximum fine of RM2,000 or 18 months’ jail or both upon conviction.
The four were represented by counsel Arthur Chin who was standing in for lawyer Tengku Fuad Ahmad who was not present in court today.
Judge Dean Wayne Daly set the hearing dates for May 18 to 22. Bail was set at RM10,000 each plus one surety.
When contacted, Fuad said the bail set was excessive for a charge of this nature.
“The case is also highly academic in nature and will lead to issues pertaining to customary international law, Malaysia’s treaty obligations and the special constitutional right of any Sabahan to question the position of the state in the federation.
“It’s not about the four accused and what they did. It’s about their right to do it in the first place,” said Fuad.
Over 100 people including former chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee and former state finance minister Datuk Mohd Noor Mansoor turned up in court today to show support for the four accused.
Supporters also carried the Sabah flag and signs bearing the words “Free Tuaran 9 activist” and calling for freedom of expression and Sabah rights to be restored.
On February 1, nine people were arrested in Tuaran to assist in a sedition probe due to their alleged links to the outlawed secession movement.
The nine who were wearing t-shirts with the words “Semangat Satu Perjuangan Rakyat”, were detained at the Tuaran tamu grounds where they were allegedly approaching people for signatures for the petition seeking Sabah rights.
Aged between 24 and 50, they were released on the same day with RM2,000 police bail.