Home Civil Society Voices Don’t probe Akmal or anyone else under draconian laws

Don’t probe Akmal or anyone else under draconian laws

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Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is appalled with the use of the Sedition Act and the draconian Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) against Umno youth wing chief Dr Akmal Saleh.

“Investigations were initiated under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and once complete, would be handed to the AGC [Attorney General’s Chambers] for further instructions,” Inspector General of Police Razarudin Husain said.

It was reported that:

Akmal has been vocal in calling for action and a boycott against KK Super Mart over the “Allah” socks controversy, and there were recent calls for his arrest over a social media post showing him wielding a sword.

Madpet believes Akmal did no wrong in raising the “Allah” socks issue, and expressing his opinion, as this is a right guaranteed in Article 8(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution, which states that “every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression”.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

This freedom of speech and expression is an essential right in any democracy. Even if someone says or expresses an opinion that is contrary to the government of the day’s position or the views of the majority populace, this right of an individual must always be respected and never be deterred.

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Response to this freedom must be through opinions and views in rebuttal – not arrest, detention or prosecution unless it breaks a specific good law.

Boycott calls

Likewise, calling for a boycott of certain establishments or even certain products is a right to be respected. Even the UN has imposed economic sanctions and even ‘boycotts’ against nation states it believes has done wrong. Even a country can impose such sanctions or ‘boycott’.

In Malaysia too, we have prevented the entry of products and even ships or planes from Israel due to Malaysia’s strong stance against Israel for the injustices caused to the Palestinian people.

A boycott is a tool of the people as a form of protest against corporations and those in their supply chain, as a protest against human rights violations or injustices committed against workers, communities or even the environment.

Hence, it is not wrong to call for a boycott or for individual persons to boycott products produced by such corporations. The choice is a personal choice of the individual or the consumer – as an indication that he or she too protests a human rights violation or an injustice by a particular company or supply chain.

Wrong to use Sedition Act and Section 233 of CMA

What is unacceptable is the use of the draconian Sedition Act, which should have long been repealed, and vague draconian provisions like Section 233 of the CMA against Akmal.

If Akmal has committed any offence against other laws, like Section 298A of the Penal Code (causing disharmony, disunity or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will or prejudicing the maintenance of harmony or unity on grounds of religion) or any other offences like incitement to cause others to commit violence, assault, or destruction of property, it would have been an acceptable excuse for a police investigation….

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The Sedition Act 1948 is unacceptable and repugnant to the rule of law for the further reasons that it creates offences arising from an act, speech, words, publication or other thing defined as having “seditious tendencies”, which are imprecise and without clear boundaries.

Unlike other criminal offences, the offence of sedition does not require mens rea or the element of intent; the correctness of what is done or the truth of what is said, printed or published is disregarded and not a defence to the offence.

Section 233 of the CMA is draconian and should be repealed. “It is just too broad and vague, and is open to abuse. For example, the highlighting of violation of human rights or laws, or facts connected to alleged violations of rights/laws, would likely ‘annoy’ or even ‘harass’ the wrongdoer, and for the alleged wrongdoer, it could also be said to be ‘menacing and offensive’. This should never be considered an offence… As such, this section deters even the highlighting of human rights abuses, breaches of law and even possible government wrongdoing. This section even deters the sharing of such relevant and important facts, and/or opinions over the internet” – Malaysian Bar resolution.

Freedom of expression

Akmal expressed an opinion on the “Allah” socks issue, but not all may share his views.

The government is yet to prohibit in law the use of the word Allah, God or other deity on clothing or certain types of clothing. If such a law is to be enacted, it is best that it be enacted by Parliament.

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One must also acknowledge the fact that some Muslim consumers would have purchased these “Allah” socks and the reason they did so is most likely not to insult God but for some other positive reason. As such, this is a matter that the government must scrutinise well before acting.

Therefore, Madpet:

  • Calls for the immediate end of the police investigation or prosecution of Dr Akmal Saleh under the draconian Section 233 of the CMA and Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948. If the investigations are under any other offences, then it will be acceptable
  • Reiterates the call for the abolition of the Sedition Act and draconian provisions in the CMA like Section 233, and for a moratorium on the usage of these draconian laws pending repeal
  • Reiterates its call for the immediate repeal of all draconian laws and provisions in laws, and not to procrastinate any further, as this Pakatan Harapan-led coalition government has been in power for more than 15 months

Charles Hector issued this statement on behalf of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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