Minister: Putrajaya studying new laws, stiffer penalties to ‘protect’ royals from insults

Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong speaks to reporters in Putrajaya January 10, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat isa
Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong speaks to reporters in Putrajaya January 10, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat isa

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PUTRAJAYA, Jan 10 — The federal government will consider amending existing laws or introducing new ones to “protect” the country’s rulers from insults, Datuk Liew Vui Keong said today.

The legal affairs minister said these changes could possibly involve heavier punishments against “irresponsible” persons who disparage the royals.

“We are looking into probably the punishment side, because at this moment, the punishment section for certain offences against the monarchy is a bit on the low side,” he told reporters here.

Liew was referring to the Sedition Act that he noted was enacted in 1948, saying that there may be a need to review the punishments listed there.

Under the law, the offence of sedition include actions with seditious tendency, such as the tendency to “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government”.

The Sedition Act currently penalises first-time offenders with a maximum RM5,000 fine or a maximum three-year jail term or both, with a subsequent offence punishable by a maximum five-year jail term.

The previous Barisan Nasional administration had amended the Sedition Act including by changing the penalty for all sedition offences to a mandatory three to seven years’ jail, but the amendments that were granted royal assent on May 28, 2015 have yet to come into force.

When asked if the government would seek to introduce new offences in the Penal Code to address situations of insults against the royalty, Liew said this could be considered.

“For now, we are still bound by the old laws, but the AGC together with me have looked at a few laws that have to be amended.

“Our meeting will be held again at the end of this month, and if there is agreement from the ministries and Cabinet, we will enact a new law later,” he said.

Liew said the meeting would be with the respective secretaries-general and legal heads of the ministries to look into laws to repeal or amend in Parliament this year.

Noting that Malaysia practises the system of constitutional monarchy, Liew said the existing laws may be tightened to uphold the royal institution.

“The obligation is to ensure our constitutional monarchy will always be protected from all kinds of attacks from these irresponsible people,” he said, having also noted that the government does not wish to see Malaysians insulting the rulers

He said the government may refer to the experience in other Commonwealth countries, and particularly the UK which also practises the constitutional monarchy system.

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