PETALING JAYA, Aug 28 — PKR’s newly-elected vice-president Rafizi Ramli claimed trial today to “defaming” and “provoking” Umno members by accusing them of conspiring to instigate religious strife in February.
The Pandan MP allegedly committed the offence under Section 504 of the Penal Code, during an interview with The Edge Daily for an article entitled “Will Rafizi quit if Selangor is not toppled?”.
He posted bail at RM2,000.
Rafizi is the latest federal opposition member to be charged with “provoking” the ruling party in a sedition dragnet rights groups claimed was intended to stifle dissent.
Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, the Pandan MP said the charge against him could be the first of more cases in the future where Section 504 of the Penal Code will be used to silence critics of the establishment.
“I can’t help but laugh... These are a few instances I believe where this section is used against a politician.
“I am afraid that it might set a bad precedent because the message we are sending is that a political party cannot be criticised when it should be the public’s duty to criticise a political party and it should be open to criticism,” he said.
The PKR vice-president said the law would also allow groups like Perkasa and Ikatan Muslim Malaysia (ISMA) to drag its critics to court.
“All you have to do is you just have to go to the police” he said.
“I’m very concerned that the Attorney-General is being creative by using laws we have not really heard of to crush dissent in public space,” he added.
Yesterday, DAP’s Seri Delima representative RSN Rayer was charged with sedition, believed to be over his “Umno Celaka” remarks uttered inside the Penang state assembly.
PAS’s Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad was charged yesterday morning under the colonial-era law over his alleged remarks on reducing the Selangor Islamic religious council’s (Mais) powers.
PKR’s Padang Serai MP N. Surendran was also recently charged with sedition for allegedly criticising the Court of Appeal’s ruling that reversed Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal in his second sodomy trial, while DAP’s Seputeh MP Teresa Kok was similarly charged earlier this year over a video clip.
Rafizi was initially investigated for sedition as well but the authorities made an eleventh hour change to charge the Pandan lawmaker under the Penal Code.
The PKR vice president claimed the sudden change could have been due to the lack of solid evidence to convict him under the Sedition Act.
If convicted, Rafizi could be jailed for not more than two years or a fine or both.
Sessions Court Judge Abu Bakar Manat set September 30 for trial.