NAJIB Razak’s unprecedented sedition crackdown during his reign was the darkest period for freedom of expression in the country, said a lawyers group, adding that the former prime minister should now be investigated for abuse of power.
Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) took aim at Najib after he had accused the new Pakatan Harapan government of being “trigger-happy” with the Sedition Act.
This came about after police had arrested three social media users under the Sedition Act for allegedly insulting Sultan Muhammad V after his abdication as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Najib had also said that the Barisan Nasional government under him was more restrained in using the Act.
LFL adviser N. Surendran, however, accused Najib of being “hypocritical and false” as the abuse of the Sedition Act under the previous administration was extreme.
“The abuse of the sedition law under Najib was so extreme that it warrants an investigation for abuse of power,” Surendran said.
“Former attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail, former inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar and all other officials who were complicit in the sedition rampage should also be investigated.”
He said the Najib administration had charged more individuals for sedition than the previous administrations before him put together.
Surendran pointed out that there was a record of 170 sedition cases between 2013 and 2016.
“In 2015 alone, during the peak of Najib’s sedition crackdown, about 91 people were arrested, investigated or charged with sedition. This was about five times more than the entire total for the previous 55 years of the law’s existence.
“Worse, under Najib’s government, the Sedition Act was also amended in 2015 to provide for harsher punishment including a minimum prison term,” he said, adding that Najib’s regime had used the law to silence the then-opposition, public and civil society.
Surendran urged the Pakatan Harapan government to form a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate and recommend appropriate action on the massive abuse of the Sedition Act under the Najib administration.
The lawyer said he himself was charged twice with sedition in 2014 for criticising the Sodomy 2 court judgment and for implicating Najib in a political conspiracy against Anwar Ibrahim.
“Lawyers, activists, MPs, opposition politicians, academics, journalists, ordinary members of the public – all became victims of the Sedition Act under Najib.”