PETALING JAYA, July 3 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday renewed his pledge to do away with the criticised Sedition Act, even as authorities continue to wield the colonial era law against opposition members and activists.
Speaking on British broadcaster BBC’s World News programme, the prime minister insisted that the law that critics allege is used to silence dissent, was only being applied on individuals who were undermining Malaysia’s security.
“We have shown an awful lot of latitude to people who protest against the government, but people cannot say something that will undermine the stability of our country,” Najib told BBC World News yesterday.
“We will amend the act but we want to keep Malaysia peaceful and harmonious,” he added.
In July last year, Najib announced that the 1948 law will be repealed but added that this would only be done once a replacement law — a National Harmony Act — is introduced in its place. Then de facto law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had said this would happen this year.
But the authorities’ decision to charge PKR’s Tian Chua along with activists Haris Ibrahim, Adam Adli and Safwan Anang last month with the act has renewed questions over the government’s sincerity to do away with the controversial law.
Opposition lawmakers argue that prosecution under the Sedition Act should not be pursued given Najib’s announcement.
Yesterday, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar filed a Private Member’s Bill with Parliament in a bid to hasten the abolishment of the law.
“More than a year ago Datuk Seri Najib Razak had announced the government’s decision to abolish the Sedition Act 1948 and replace with a law that will be known as the National Harmony Act.
“Unfortunately, the public is still waiting for Datuk Seri Najib to fulfil his promise, in fact they are stunned by the legal action on activists and Pakatan Rakyat politicians by using the Sedition Act post-Election 2013,” she told a press conference in Parliament here.
Yesterday, Najib also pointed to his deliverance of previous pledges as evidence of his intent to repeal the Sedition Act.
Since making the pledges during a live Malaysia Day address in 2011, Najib has repealed the Internal Security Act (ISA), lifted three Emergency Declarations, and passed the Peaceful Assembly Act to promote greater liberties pertaining to public gatherings.
He has also removed the annual printing licences previously mandated by the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and allowed student participation in politics through amendments to the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971.
The prime minister arrived in Britain from an earlier trip to Tanzania yesterday. He is scheduled to meet with British counterpart David Cameron tomorrow, and will also launch the Battersea project belonging to the consortium of Sime Darby, SP Setia and the Employees Provident Fund in London.