The Sedition Act is now clearly used as an instrument of gross injustice and a weapon of mass oppression. The recent spate of arbitrary arrests and selective prosecution of Pakatan Rakyat leadersrepresents a gross affront to the democratic process and signifies a breakdown in the rule of law.
To date, five Members of Parliament and two State Assemblymen as well as several other Pakatan leaders have been prosecuted. It is a long list whichis growing even longer with no one being spared except UMNO leaders and their right-wing racist cohorts.
They are PKR MP for Pandan Rafizi Ramli, PKR MP for Padang Serai N Surendran, PKR Youth chiefand Deputy Selangor State Assembly Speaker Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, DAP MP for Seputeh Teresa Kok, PKR MP for Batu Tian Chua, PAS MP for Shah Alam Khalid Samad, and DAP Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer and former Perak MP and Changkat Jering assemblyman Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin.
Today, this wave of repression has taken on the hue of an outrageous farce with the prosecution of law professor Azmi Sharom for expressing his academic opinion on the Selangor MB crisis. Incidentally, though it was not a view that was pro-UMNO, neither was it pro-PKR in any way. But as a firm believer in academic freedom, I maintain that Azmi has every right to express his views.
Hijacking democracy and the electoral process
If the prosecutions are successful, it is likely that at least six parliamentary by-elections and three state assembly by-elections will ensue, if we include myown impending Federal Court appeal which, going by the current state of the judiciary, holds not much promise that justice will prevail.
What we are seeing is thus a blatant and shameless attempt by Najib to hijack democracy by having duly elected law makers from Pakatan to be stripped of their democratic entitlements and disqualified from contesting in the subsequent by-elections. This will be a grave perversion of justice via the back door of the Attorney-General’s chambers.
Yesterday, the dragnet of repression was extended to haul in members of civil society with the police arresting 156 Penang Voluntary Patrol Unit (PPS) members – essentially citizens who have volunteered to perform their civic responsibilities to keep the peace. There is also the audacious threat by the Home Minister to take action against PAS’s Unit Amal which has been for years recognised by the people as effective in crowd control during opposition rallies apart from its other humanitarian and welfare work.
The statement from the Prime Minister’s Office that the Sedition Act will be repealed is not only hollow but a gross lie considering the spate of prosecutions being carried. How can such flagrant use of an archaic and repressive law convince anyone that the government is serious about legislative reform?
On the contrary, it nails the lie to the elaborate game of deception played by Najib when in July 2012, he proclaimed with much fanfare and PR blitz, his National Transformation Plan.
By holding out such a big promise to the people of making Malaysia the “best democracy in the world”, while in reality imposing a new reign of Executiveterror, Najib has therefore perpetrated a gross and reckless fraud on the people.
The volley ball blame game being played by the Home Ministry in tossing the blame on the Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail for this heightened pace of prosecutions is futile because at the end of the day,all are culpable in this despicable enterprise as they are part and parcel of the Executive.
Attack on justice and freedom
In a fully functioning democracy, such abuse of power by the Executive can and will be checked by the judiciary by summary dismissal of the chargesfor they are not just frivolous and an abuse of legal process but constitute a general affront to our basic sense of justice and freedom.
These are attacks on the very foundation of our constitution which guarantees freedom from arbitrary arrests and prosecution. They are direct assaults on the democratic process which renders elected representatives to be duty-bound to speak for the people against injustice and abuse of power.
The question is: Do we have a strong, independent and vibrant judiciary that believes that politicians and their appointees who hold high executive office must act according to the rule of law, and not the rule of political expediency?
Do we have the requisite number of judges who will judge without fear or favour according to the criterion of justice? Will they have the moral courage and conviction to send a clear message that they will not be party to the Executive’s attempt to pervert the course of justice and violate the liberties and rights of the people as enshrined in the Constitution?
A government must not only administer efficiently though in this regard the Najib government has failed miserably. But even more profound is the moral obligation to administer justly.
Racist speeches by UMNO ministers and MPs, given full media coverage by UMNO’s propaganda network machine, are on the uptake. Extreme right-wing groups and countless other racist organizations continue to spread and incite communal hatred.
But what does it say for justice and democracy whenthese racists and purveyors of religious extremism get off scot free while those who speak the truth for the sake of a better, more harmonious Malaysia are treated as criminals?
Merdeka Day has just come and gone and two days ago the Malaysian people were treated to a grand show to mark our day of independence. It is supposed to be a celebration from the yoke of colonialism for our new found freedoms and rights.
Indeed, what a tragic irony it is that we are in fact witnessing the unbridled use of the Sedition Act that is nothing but a relic of this era of colonialism. TrueMerdeka means that we must reject this law, not use it as what the Najib government is doing, with renewed vigour and determination as an instrument of injustice and a weapon of mass oppression.
2 September 2014