Why the increased jail sentence for Wan Ji? lawyer asks amid renewed calls for Sedition Act repeal

Syahredzan said that Wan Ji's jail sentence ran contrary to the government’s efforts to repeal the Act. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Syahredzan said that Wan Ji's jail sentence ran contrary to the government’s efforts to repeal the Act. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 — The public prosecutor must explain why preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin was handed a heavier jail sentence despite Putrajaya’s stated intention to repeal the Sedition Act, a lawyer said today.

Syahredzan Johan said that the one-year sentence was not in line with the government’s efforts to repeal the Act.

“Although the Sedition Act has not been abolished and still in force, the government has repeatedly expressed its intention to repeal the Act.

“In fact, the prosecutor himself has withdrawn several charges under the Act previously, in line with the Federal Government's policy on the Act,” the civil liberties lawyer said in a statement.

 “Therefore, the public prosecutor must clarify why his party has appealed to impose a heavier sentence on Wan Ji, contrary to the Federal Government's policy on the Sedition Act,” he added, saying that repealing the Act would also mean that fellow Malaysians like Wan Ji would not be convicted under an “archaic and oppressive” law.

The High Court in Shah Alam today rejected Wan Ji’s appeal against his conviction for making seditious remarks against Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah seven years ago.

High Court judge Abdul Halim Aman also increased Wan Ji’s original prison sentence from nine months to a year.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) Executive Director Sevan Doraisamy also expressed disappointment in the High Court’s decision, stating this stems from the failure of the Pakatan Harapan administration in constitutional reforms.

“Since coming into power, the Pakatan Harapan administration has failed to fulfill its promise of abolishing the Sedition Act 1948 and other draconian laws. The Pakatan Harapan administration cannot hide behind the veil of separation of power as the administration was the one that has failed to institute the necessary policy reform.

“Their failure to abolish these laws and to take remedial action has resulted in the conviction of Fahmi Reza under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and now, Wan Ji under the Sedition Act 1948,’’ he said in a statement.

“Suaram also calls on the Parliament Standing Committee on Rights and Gender Equality to summon the Head of Prosecution within the Attorney General Chambers to answer publicly the reason for the continued prosecution under the Sedition Act 1948 despite the commitments made by the Pakatan Harapan administration,’’ he added.

Other civil society organisations such as the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Beyond Borders, Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity (Maju) and Malaysia Muda also demanded the government repeal the Sedition Act immediately.

The organisations also said there should be a moratorium on the Sedition Act and other repressive laws as well as legislative reforms with the aim of bringing all laws into compliance with international laws and standards.

In support of Wan Ji, Suaram will hold a vigil tonight in front of the Kajang prison at 9pm.