I have been meaning to express myself on a number of trending issues at the national and international levels. For a start I was real upset about the slew of selective prosecutions using the archaic Sedition Act in this country. I have been warned by my loved ones and colleagues not to endanger myself unnecessarily by venting my anger on this hatchet law. Any form of criticisms (read here) it seems could be construed as being seditious and can land you in court, be fined or worse still; be imprisoned. Yes, “intent” and “truth” are not relevant here; a just society? Give me a break.
A number of opposition politicians and even an academic giving his views on an application of a specific law, have been charged with sedition. The latest I come across is a man, arrested for leading a volunteer safety team, who said that he was treated like a criminal while in custody. For expressing his disgust, he is being hauled up for sedition. In fact, if you looked at the regulations and amendments of the Act, almost everything could come under the purview of the Act and one is liable if the power that be so decides. Remember it’s “seditious tendencies” : go figure.
I am not comfortable at all witnessing this present development which seeks to silence those whom the authorities deem as a nuisance to the society through the interpretation of a loose law, a law which is open-ended and conceived well before the emergence of a vibrant social media in the 21th Century! In fact this law dated before Independence (1957) and like the Official Security Act (OSA) which was repealed last year (2013), was promulgated by the Colonial British as a means to intimidate and control subversive elements during the Communists’ insurgence in the then Malaya.
Why the need to silence expressions in this day and age? I suppose living in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country is the main reason for the existence of this law. But I would have thought it should confine itself to issues relating to racial and religious sensitivities where men cannot handle hurtful accusations and labellings. To extend it to almost all spheres of interactions and engagements is not only short-sighted but repressive bordering on subjugating human rights to freedom of expression in all sincerity.
Apparently the current Prime Minister has promised to repeal this Act and replace it with a National Harmony Act which is still in the works and expected to be tabled by end of next year (2015), in the meantime, someone has decided to make examples of outspoken people using this outgoing law. A most strange decision.
And spewing arrogantly from a pedestal, a very senior and serving government officer has promised that more arrests will be made for perceived violation of the Act and “Berani cakap, berani tanggung” (Brave to express, brave to be responsible”)…. real cool to be on the other side of the fence. And before long we would have to build more jails instead of universities or health centres.