Datuk Seri, please do the right thing

SEPT 9 ― Datuk Seri Najib Razak, I, like many Malaysians around the country, support your call to repeal the Sedition Act of 1948.

There are periods in history when we are at the right place, at the right time and are called upon to act. To do what our conscience tells us as necessary because only we can. Times like these are few and far in between, when we are called to action to make right that which is wrong, heal that which has been hurt and practise that which we speak of. This is one such opportunity.

The 1948 Sedition Act is a piece of colonial era legislation which was born during a time when our penjajah, the English, intended to suppress dissent, maintain power and continue the oppression and subjugation of the people of Malaya.

It was intended to extinguish the flame of democracy which burned brightly amongst those who yearned for freedom and a better future for everyone in this country. It is an instrument born of fear, insecurity, is against democratic principles and aimed to tyrannise the ruled and to see and treat the rakyat as the enemy. It was used on the people who fought for this country’s independence.

It has been 57 years since the cry of “Merdeka!” rang seven times in the ears of all those present at Stadium Merdeka as tears ran down cheeks during that glorious moment.

How ironic is it that we have been independent for decades but continue to keep and utilise the tools of oppression and tyranny left by our colonial masters more than a century ago? Have we become today’s colonial masters who brook no opposition, no contrarian opinions and no check and balance?

Surely, Malaysia and the Malaysian people deserve better?

How can we call ourselves truly independent and democratic when we allow for the continued existence, use and abuse of such an unjust law against our own people?

Datuk Seri, you know as I do, that nobody is arguing for changes which compromise or threaten the security of the country.

Contrary to what the proponents of this law say and often deliberately misrepresent, Malaysia does not need this law to maintain its security and maintain the harmonious and peaceful existence which is our way of life. It does not make us a better people or a better government. Perkasa described the act as a “weapon” to aim at “traitors.” A weapon certainly does not promote national harmony.

What this Act does is to cultivate a culture and climate of fear, impunity, distrust and oppression where dissent and contrarian opinion are not tolerated or accepted, and even criminalised. Only extremists, people with selfish interests and those who jump at shadows and imaginary enemies or “traitors” will argue for its continued existence.

They are the ones who moan and groan of the inconvenience of democracy and prefer the authoritarian approach where might makes right. Where there is only one way. Their way. They are afraid of change, doubt the maturity of the Malaysian people and do not believe in a different and better Malaysia. They doubt your vision for the country, Datuk Seri.

Two years ago, when you announced the government’s intent and your vision to repeal the Internal Security Act of 1960 and the Sedition Act and later acted on the former, we saw hope of change for the better.

The mere act of being in disagreement or in opposition against the policies and actions of the government should never be considered either a crime or seditious. If a person cares about Malaysia, he or she will talk about both her strengths and weaknesses, warts and all. After all, what is democracy if not the right to stand up, speak out and stand for what you believe in without fear or favour. It is how together we build a better country.

But of late in the past year and these few months, many of us have seen with dismay the exponential vigorous use of a law which has resulted in activists, politicians, journalists and even academics being hauled up, accused and charged with sedition.

Far from being seditious and traitorous, many of them are in fact the very moderates which you speak so highly and are supportive of as being the bulwark against extremism and injustice in this country. They speak out in support or opposition because they care about and love this country. The extremists on the other hand seem to have a freehand, are unaccountable and act without fear and with impunity regardless of the damage, tensions and fear they create and cause.

Datuk Seri, we are concerned that even members of your own Cabinet, as recently as last week, have openly questioned or disputed, directly or indirectly, your vision of a better Malaysia without these laws. They have also tried to undermine the mandate given to the NUCC to help draft the National Harmony Bill to replace the Sedition Act.

A great change is at hand, and you are in the right time and the right place to make this happen, peacefully, constructive and of benefit for all.

The right actions are rarely easy or even popular. But it is the right thing to do. Let’s get rid of the Sedition Act of 1948 and be truly independent in deed and spirit.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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