The Malaysian Bar is perturbed to learn that the police have opened an investigation against Fadiah Nadwa Fikri under Section 4(1)(a) of the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 in relation to a social media post she made about a gathering at Dataran Merdeka on 29 February 2020.
It was also reported that the past president of the Malaysian Bar from 2007 to 2009, Ambiga Sreenevasan, and Marina Mahathir are currently under police investigation for alleged involvement in a separate gathering.
Freedom of speech, assembly and association is enshrined in Article 10 of our Federal Constitution. The Court of Appeal in the 2014 case of Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad v Public Prosecutor unanimously affirmed the constitutional liberty to assemble peaceably.
All Malaysians are entitled to this freedom irrespective of their political and ideological beliefs. All Malaysians have the right to express their views and concerns about the rapidly evolving political scenario.
The police should exercise greater restraint when the freedom of speech, assembly and association is exercised by Malaysians in good faith.
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Unwarranted restriction on this constitutional right will give rise to the perception that our country is regressing into a time when draconian laws such as the Sedition Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act were used to severely curtail and undermine the freedom of speech, assembly and association in the name of national interest – just to preserve the interest of a few.
The Malaysian Bar strongly calls upon the authorities to respect the right of Malaysians to voice their views and concerns on the political climate of this country in an orderly and non-violent manner.
The police, in their role as public peacekeepers, should facilitate such peaceful assemblies and gatherings and not sceptically view every legitimate exercise of our constitutional freedom of speech, assembly and association as a threat to public order.
Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor is president of the Malaysian Bar
This piece dated 2 March 2008 is reproduced from here and has been edited for style only.