Sedition arrests undoing Pakatan’s reform agenda, Suhakam warns

Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said recent arrests could prompt accusations that the police are acting within an authoritarian framework. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said recent arrests could prompt accusations that the police are acting within an authoritarian framework. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — The National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) today warned Putrajaya that the recent arrests under the Sedition Act 1948 could sabotage its reform agenda.

Chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said the arrests of several individuals for various alleged offences signalled the authorities’ continued reliance on the draconian law, which Pakatan Harapan (PH) promised to repeal once elected into office.

The arrests, he added, could prompt accusations that the police are acting within an authoritarian framework.

“The continued use of the Sedition Act indicates a worrying dependency on draconian laws and Suhakam questions if police practices may be contrary to the government’s policy and reform agenda,” the commission said in a statement.

“To the extent that the police may be accused of operating within an authoritarian policing framework.”

Two men and one woman were arrested five days ago for allegedly posting demeaning social media comments against Sultan Muhammad V of Kelantan who stepped down as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong last Sunday.

The three are being investigated under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act.

Rights groups, including Suhakam, condemned the move immediately.

Suhakam said today that the arrests had put the government’s reform agenda into question since it was PH itself that declared the law to be oppressive in its election manifesto.

The manifesto, among others, pledged to abolish the Sedition Act as part of efforts to enhance civil liberties.

Many current PH lawmakers were themselves victims of the draconian law, Razali noted.

“These developments are viewed with deep concern by the public because the Government itself has taken a position that the Sedition Act is oppressive (manifesto promise 27),” Razali said.

“Suhakam is therefore surprised that Cabinet and Pakatan Harapan Members of Parliament who claim to support Malaysia’s transformative democracy, some of whom were victims of the Sedition Act themselves, have allowed such a regression.”

Days after the arrests, Deputy Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said invoking the Sedition Act was justified.

Noor Rashid claimed 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.