No Lese Majeste for Malaysia: NGO wants “total abolition” of draconian Sedition Act 1948

THE Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET) wants the unity government to abolish the Sedition Act 1948 amid growing concern over the signs of Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his unity government moving towards a lese majeste tendency by criminalising actions and speech about the royalty.

Instead of reviewing the “archaic” law, MADPET has reiterated its call for a “total abolition” of the Sedition Act 1948 for it “cannot agree with the Malaysian Cabinet’s position to keep it and use it to protect the King, sultans and the rulers of the states”.

“The King and the rulers no longer have absolute power generally. All is done by the King or rulers on the advice of the PM or Menteri Besar whereby the King has no choice but to follow the advice of the (ruling) party as provided in the Federal/State Constitution,” justified MADPET’s spokesman and co-founder Charles Hector in a media statement.

“Even for the appointment of the PM, the King can only appoint the person who has the confidence of the majority of MPs (and) not as he pleases.”

Charles Hector

Elaborating its stance further, MADPET raised concerns over the definition of royalty and the preferential treatment accorded by state and public officers to royalty primarily because “of a prevalent feudal mentality”.

“Would that affect tenders, contracts, logging permits and mining licences when royalty is involved in the business or application?” wondered Hector.

“Even when it comes to law enforcement, there seems to be disinclination when royalty is involved as seen by the number of cases filed in the Special Court. Shouldn’t the people have the freedom to highlight wrongdoings of the royalty or the companies/businesses they are involved in?”

Hector further highlighted media reports which indicate possible crimes by the royalty or royal institution in recent times:

  • “Tiger Habitat Threatened by Malaysian Royals’ Mining Plans” (Mongbay, 7 July 2021);
  • “Malaysia’s Johor Royals Linked to Forests Felled for Oil Palm Plantations Without Full Approval” (South China Morning Post, 24 July 2022);
  • “Shocking Expose of Politicians, Royalty in Multi-Billion Medicine Monopoly” (Free Malaysia Today, 13 June 2018); and
  • “Company Linked to Royalty in Lynas’ Waste Disposal Site Project” (Malaysiakini, 24 February 2021).

The social activist-cum-lawyer went on to argue that to maintain Sedition Act for the protection of royalty/royal institution cannot be justified as there have even been cases of “current/former PMs been implicated in wrongdoings against the law” as in the case of incarcerated former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Against such backdrop, Hector said MADPET reiterates its call on the unity government to immediately repeal the draconian Sedition Act 1948 and “no longer come up with excuses for delaying the repeal”.

“MADPET also call on the Malaysian government to immediately impose a moratorium on the use of the Sedition Act 1948 so that no one will ever be again investigated, arrested, detained for investigation or charged for any offences under the Act,” Hector pointed out. “Malaysia in 2018 imposed a moratorium on execution and did not hang anyone after that.”

Added Hector: “Even if the Sedition Act is repealed, Malaysia has other laws that could be used including the Penal Code offence of criminal defamation that could be used against anyone that committed crimes against the royalty.” – Sept 29, 2023

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