Deputy IGP defends Sedition Act arrests, says country’s peace was in question

Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim, speaks to reporters after the ‘Child abuse cases are increasing: Is the law less effective?’ forum in Kuala Lumpur January 10, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim, speaks to reporters after the ‘Child abuse cases are increasing: Is the law less effective?’ forum in Kuala Lumpur January 10, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 10 — Deputy Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim today defended the arrest of three individuals under the Sedition Act for comments on social media that allegedly insulted Sultan Muhammad V.

Noor Rashid said the context of what was said by the three individuals posed a threat to public order, which is one of the exceptions of a moratorium that the police had been accused of breaching.

“If the context and what was said by the three individuals continues to be viralled by more people on social media, it would threaten the country’s peace.

“If we let it go just like that, it will threaten public order. So we had to do our job in accordance with the law to preserve peace in the country,” he said at a press conference after a forum on the rise of child abuse cases at the Royal Malaysian Police College in Cheras.

Noor Rashid also confirmed all three have now been released on police bail.

The Cabinet’s resolution to lift the moratorium on certain Acts, including the Sedition Act, was limited to exceptional cases involving national security, public order and race relations.

On Tuesday, police arrested two men and one woman over their social media remarks that were deemed insulting to Sultan Muhammad V after the Kelantan Ruler abdicated as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Sunday.

Police are investigating the three cases under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948.

The trio arrested are Eric Liew Chee Ling, 46, who uses the Facebook account name Eric Liew; 27-year-old Azham Akhtar Abdullah who uses the @azhamakhtar Twitter handle; and Nur Alia Astaman, 26, who made postings through her @aliaastaman Twitter handle.

The use of the Sedition Act to arrest and investigate the trio have since then been condemned by civil society, as the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition had promised in its election manifesto to repeal the law.

Lawyers Syahredzan Johan and Farhan Haziq Mohamed had argued that the colonial-era law was repressive and imposes disproportionate restrictions on constitutional freedoms, suggesting that other laws be used to probe the trio.

Syahredzan is political secretary to Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang while Farhan is Subang DAP Youth chief.

Both said the government’s use of the Sedition Act should only be for exceptional cases involving national security, public order and race relations, and that the trio’s remarks did not fall into any of those categories.