Pakatan has ‘new formula’ to deal with sedition; minister says outdated law will go this year

Liew said the Sedition Act will be removed in its entirety before the end of the year. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Liew said the Sedition Act will be removed in its entirety before the end of the year. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, May 10 — The unpopular Sedition Act 1948 will be abolished by this year, de facto law minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong has confirmed.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said the Cabinet wants a “new formula” to tackle sedition, especially slander or libel against the monarchy and government leaders that disrupt public order, but still ensures a degree of freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

“This is because we want to ensure that certain statements can enjoy some form of freedom but we do not want to allow everybody to simply make statements that defame our rulers and certain politicians, especially our leaders.

“But we in Pakatan Harapan do not actually mind if people want to criticise us. Constructive criticism is good for the government because from there we can progress and develop,” he said in a group media interview last Tuesday, ahead of the coalition’s first anniversary in power.

Liew said the government is working on a Bill to abolish the colonial-era law, adding that the Cabinet has agreed the Sedition Act will be removed in its entirety before the end of the year.

“In fact, we had decided in the Cabinet meeting that the Sedition Act will be abolished and this is being undertaken by the Home Ministry as the law is under their purview.

“But I together with Senator Waytha, Datuk Mujahid, and minister Gobind will look into a new formula to deal with the Sedition Act, to have a new Act replace it, or alternatively we will place it under the Penal Code for certain sections involving defamation or insulting the monarchy,” he added.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin helms the Home Ministry, P. Waytha Moorthy holds the portfolio for national unity and social wellbeing, Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa oversees Islamic affairs, and Gobind Singh Deo is communications and multimedia minister.

PH ordered a moratorium on the Sedition Act on October 10 last year, five months after winning the elections.

However, they lifted the suspension last December, stating that the police should be allowed to enforce the law in exceptional cases involving national security, public order and race relations.

Since then, the police have invoked the Sedition Act in the arrest of two men and one woman for posting comments on social media deemed insulting to Sultan Muhammad V after the Kelantan Ruler abdicated as the 15th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on January 6.

Another person investigated for sedition is former Barisan Nasional secretary-general Datuk Nazri Aziz who is said to have claimed the appointment of non-Muslims as the attorney general, chief justice and finance minister caused fear among the Malay community, among other supposedly racially charge comments.

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