Deputy Home Minister criticised by prominent lawyers for defending the use of Sedition Act.
After backlash, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Azis Jamman today defended police investigations under the Sedition Act 1948, saying the force will have to act if reports were lodged as part of its standard operating procedure.
He also reiterated that he does not agree with the application of the archaic Act previously used to quell dissent by the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.
“The police will only take action if multiple reports have been lodged. If they did not take any action, it is feared that the public perception towards them will be affected. The police can be accused of not doing their job.
“Any form of legal action taken by the police will then be based on their own research after considering the various legal aspects,” he said in a statement.
Earlier today, Azis was reported as saying that the controversial Act is to remain as it is until a further announcement is made.
This follows the use of the Sedition Act to arrest Azman Noor Adam, brother of Umno supreme council member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam, who allegedly insulted Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on social media.
But Dr Mahathir said today that the police must stop arresting people who insult him as “politicians must accept criticism.”
Azis’ remark was slammed by fellow Pakatan Harapan leaders such as DAP’s Ramkarpal Singh and PKR’s N Surendran.
Ramkarpal said Azis’ remark reflects a “lack of political will” on the government in carrying out its election promises.
“Azis’s announcement misses the point that such laws ought not to be used on anyone, regardless of political affiliation as it ought to be a matter of time before they are repealed.
“In fact, the Ministry of Home Affairs ought to make such an announcement forthwith so that government resources are not wasted on investigations into offences which are likely to become obsolete in the near future,” he said in a statement on Thursday (Oct 4).
Ramkarpal said that it was not difficult to repeal the Sedition Act as the move would be supported in Parliament, just like the Goods and Services Tax Act.
“It is an open secret that the Sedition Act was abused in the past to stifle political dissent and by its continued use, the present government may be seen to be no different from its predecessor in this regard,” he added.
Lawyers for Liberty advisor N Surendran took to Twitter to condemn Azis’ remark.
“If this fella (person) says this kind of thing, he’s not fit to be a Deputy Minister!
“What nonsense to talk about police SOP (standard operating procedure),” he tweeted.
Surendran added that Azis should get a copy of the Pakatan Harapan manifesto and read it.
Prior to the 14th General Election, Pakatan in its manifesto had pledged to abolish the Sedition Act, as well as the National Security Council Act and Anti-Fake News Act when it came into power.
Earlier, it was reported that Azis had said that the Sedition Act would continue to be used until it was amended or repealed.
He pointed out that the abolishment of the Act has not been finalised as the procedure involves going through Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara first, similar to the passing of any other Bill, including the Anti-Fake News (Abolition) 2018.
He also stressed that he was not in the position to respond otherwise when asked by Malaysiakini if the Sedition Act 1948 was still in place.
“When the question was posed to me, I answered yes. If you were in my shoes, what would have been your answer to the reporter? Can you make a decision that sidelines the Cabinet?” he asked, referring to his critics.
“I would like to emphasise that there was no instruction from the ruling government to use the Act against any individuals, as widely alleged. In fact, the Pakatan Harapan government does not encourage the use of the Act.”