Zaid: I was speaking out against Sedition Act, not the rulers

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Former de facto law minister Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim has clarified that his social media post earlier this week was not a swipe at the monarchy, but at the “defenders of the Sedition Act”.

He was responding to the New Straits Times article on July 18 that he had courted controversy by taking a veiled swipe at the monarchy over the controversy surrounding caretaker Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor’s fallout with the Selangor royalty.

“NST Online took a jab at me. (NST) said that I had made a veiled swipe at the monarchy.

NST

“It refers to my tweet a few days ago when I advised Malaysians not to comment about the Palace in case it can be construed as insulting.”

Zahid said he was, instead, commenting on the Sedition Act, which is so broad in scope that even fair criticism and innocent statements can be interpreted as insulting or derogatory or causing harm to public order.

“That’s why there is no genuine free speech with such laws in place. The Istana, like all monarchs, want to be respected and even loved. Not all have the fortune of being revered like Bhumipol Adeluyegh (the Thai king given the moniker Bhumipol the Great).

“But ring-fencing them from criticisms of the rakyat is not the right way,” he wrote.

Zaid added that the Sedition Act will not endear the monarchs to the people in the long run.

“Even Thailand’s lèse-majesté, where one can be imprisoned for 15 years, will go away soon.

“The government, instead, must show all the desirable qualities of our monarchs, all their good deeds, and their selfless contributions to the community and country.

“The government has to show how the rulers helped them to achieve the goals of a transparent government and their role in making good governance a reality.”

Lèse-majesté in Thailand is an offence against the head of state. It comes from the French term for “crime against The Crown”.

Zaid said the approach he proposed works better for the monarchs and the people.

He had earlier taken to Twitter and posted that people must be very careful with what they say when it comes to Malay Rulers, or they would suffer the consequences.

“My advice to the common people: Do not say anything that may be construed as insulting Malay Rulers; even if unintentional.

“Do not say an MB (Menteri Besar) is a clown as that will be insulting the Ruler for appointing a clown. Do not say Malay Rulers are wealthy as that could imply the wealth is improperly obtained.

“Do not say Malay Rulers are involved in timber or durian business, or internet business. That would be demeaning. You can only praise them. Better still say nothing at all.”

Zaid then followed up his tweet by accusing the government of purposely using the Sedition Act 1948 to come down hard on political foes and opponents who dare to speak up. – NST