FULL freedom of expression will only happen when Putrajaya repeals the Sedition Act 1948 to allow more freedoms enshrined in the federal constitution, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) chairman Othman Hashim said.
Othman told The Malaysian Insight that the group won’t waver in its stand that the government abolish the draconian law.
“Suhakam maintains its position on the principles of freedom of expression, which is the right of all Malaysians.
“We believe that anyone who expresses views on human rights should not suffer from fear of reprisal or intimidation.”
In July, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government remained undecided about repealing the Sedition Act, despite mounting criticism of the ruling coalition over its failure to keep its election promise.
Muhyiddin said the colonial-era law is still under review and the government has yet to decide whether it should be amended or abolished completely, adding that it was looking to see if there is any provision deemed draconian.
Othman said while the government looks into repealing the law, it must also have a suitable replacement in place.
“When they repeal the law, it must be replaced with a new act that comprises the spirit of right to freedom of expression and speech, the limitation of such rights, as well as the elements of national harmony and security,” Othman said.
He added that the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, or Sosma, must be opened to proper checks and balances, and every case of preventive detention subject to judicial oversight.
In this regard, the extension of the period of detention for 28 days should be applied through judicial means to ensure that the rights of a suspect are protected, he said.
“Suhakam asserts that the rights to a fair trial and due process cannot be limited and made this point at a meeting with the Home Ministry on March 29.”
Othman said in the interests of transparency, Suhakam proposed that every year, a detailed report on the application of Sosma is submitted to Parliament by the ministry.
“During the second reading of Sosma in Parliament in 2012, several safeguards were mentioned, including the creation of an administrative committee to review the act and its enforcement, as well as to provide recommendations for improvement.
“It was underlined that, apart from government agencies, the president of the Malaysian Bar and the chairman of Suhakam will be included as members of the committee.”
He added that such a promise has not been fulfilled.
“If such exceptional powers are to command public consent, it is important that they be confined to their intended purpose.”