KUALA LUMPUR: The decision to retain the Sedition Act 1948 to safeguard nation-building has received the thumbs up from leaders of Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties.
MCA central committee member Datuk Mah Hang Soon said the strengthening of certain aspects of the Act was crucial as it would ensure the prosperity and development of the nation.
â€œThere have been a lot of issues, which mainly touched on religion and the sanctity of the royal institution that were often played up by certain quarters. Such things could jeopardise our country’s peace and harmony.
â€œHence with the new special provision to protect the sanctity of Islam and other religions, it could deter such problems to continue,â€ said Mah, who is Perak MCA chairman.
He was commenting on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razakâ€™s announcement that the Sedition Act will not only be retained but strengthened with at least two more provisions.
Najib, in his policy speech at the Umno General Assembly yesterday, said the first provision was to protect the sanctity of Islam and other religions practised in the country. The second new provision was to prosecute those who incite to separate Sabah and Sarawak from Malaysia.
Mah stressed that while it was pertinent to maintain freedom of speech, it was important to observe religious and racial sensitivities in a multiracial country.
MIC Youth Chief C. Sivarraajh said while the Prime Ministerâ€™s call to maintain the Sedition Act was lauded, the current selective prosecution under the law should be avoided.
â€œThere must be adequate check and balances in the Sedition law and a mechanism to strictly monitor the Act.
â€œThe rule of law should prevail in that only those who challenge the basic tenets of society should be charged,â€ he said.
Sivarraajh said efforts must be made to ensure the Act was enforced in an unbiased manner, and that it would serve to benefit all Malaysians.
â€œThose who criticise legitimately, even if they are from the opposition, should not be prosecuted. Also, the judges (in court) will decide whether anyone is guilty or not,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, Gerakan president Datuk Mah Siew Keong said there was a need to address the publicâ€™s wrong perception over the use of the Sedition Act as many thought that its enforcement was selective.
Mah said many people on the ground were of this opinion because academicians were among those who have been charged using the Sedition Act.
Mah said many people had also questioned the fact that Perkasaâ€™s Datuk Ibrahim Ali was not charged under the Act following a comment that touched upon Malay language bibles.
â€œSuch perceptions on the enforcement of the Act has fuelled perception that the Act has not been used in a fair and just manner,â€ said Mah. He said that an improved Sedition Act, as announced by Najib, would eventually solve these perceptions.
Mah, who welcomed Najibâ€™s pledge to take action against those who disrupt religious harmony, still hoped the proposed National Harmony Act would become a reality.
He said a National Harmony Act would have a framework of punitive and positive measures to ensure societal stability to promote national unity and harmony.
“It is indeed a long struggle similar to the push to repeal the Internal Security Act which had taken close to 20 years,â€ said Mah.
â€œHowever in line with the growing tide of democratisation, I believe this will eventually happen when all parties are ready on the need for a new set of laws that confronts the current and impending challenges to national unity and harmony,â€ said Mah.-NST