Putrajaya removes secession example in revised Sedition Act amendments

The Najib administration also said the amendment will now 'preserve the discretion of the court whether to grant bail for sedition offences'. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
The Najib administration also said the amendment will now 'preserve the discretion of the court whether to grant bail for sedition offences'. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 — The federal government has withdrawn an example of its definition of seditious tendencies in its latest revision to its proposed changes to the Sedition Act 1948.

In its paper tabled in Parliament today, the government deleted a line to illustrate its definition of sedition tendencies.

The line that was deleted is: “Illustration — A excites a person or a group of persons to demand for the secession of state B from Malaysia. Such act is seditious.”

But the removal of that example does not mean that encouraging others to seek for a state's secession is no longer considered seditious.

In its explanatory note to its initial proposed amendments tabled Tuesday, the government said that it was introducing the illustration to "make it clear" that inciting others to demand for secession is an offence, saying that "such [a] demand is already seditious" in the existing Sedition Act 1948.

Ahead of a Parliament debate today to amend the Sedition Act, the federal government tabled several changes — including replacing the offence of importing seditious publications with the offence of propagating seditious publications.

The Najib administration also said the amendment will now "preserve the discretion of the court whether to grant bail for sedition offences".

For the aggravated offence of making seditious remarks that can lead to bodily injury or property damage, the government is also proposing to cut the minimum jail term from five years to three years.

The revision follows criticism that the initial amendments were too harsh.

The initial proposal was to deny bail for aggravated sedition offenders — usually reserved for more serious cases like murder — and a longer jail term of between five and 20 years.

Today is the last day of this Parliamentary session, which had seen the government rush through several Bills, including the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act.

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