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MP’s arrest for parliamentary speech unnecessary, malicious

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The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) condemns the arrest and overnight detention of MP Nurul Izzah Anwar under the Sedition Act 1948 over her speech in the Dewan Rakyat.

Both were unnecessary and clearly malicious.

If her speech needed to be investigated, the police only had to refer to the Hansard. There was absolutely no need to arrest and detain her. A well-known and popular two-term MP who is committed to the development of the country, she is also definitely not a flight risk.

Yet the police chose to arrest her before taking her statement over her speech, as revealed by her lawyer R Sivarasa in a statement. It was obvious that the authorities were bent on depriving Nurul Izzah’s liberty for one night by shutting her in a police lockup.

As outrageous as the details of her arrest are, of greater concern to us is the infringement of parliamentarians’ rights and privileges pertaining to their freedom to speak without fear or favour in the public interest.

Had Nurul Izzah spoken out of order in the Dewan Rakyat, the Speaker, as the presiding officer, could have taken action on her – though it would have to be a last resort as speaking up is an integral function of a Member of Parliament. The Rights and Privileges Committee is there for such an eventuality.

There are acceptable limits to freedom of expression, but the august house cannot be restricted. Representatives of the people must have the freedom to speak on behalf of the people, to raise public concerns and debate contentious issues so that we can move forward as a nation. Parliamentarians’ immunity must be protected.

Nurul Izzah’s arrest has shown Malaysians the extent of the diabolical nature of the Sedition Act – that it can seemingly even trump parliamentary privileges under Section 63(4) of the Federal Constitution.

Malaysians must say it loud and clear: this archaic law, a relic of our colonial times, must go.

Steering Committee of Bersih 2.0, comprising:

Chairperson: Maria Chin Abdullah; Deputy Chairperson: Sarajun Hoda Abdul Hassan; Treasurer: Masjaliza Hamzah; national representatives: Assoc. Prof. Dr Abdul Halim bin Yusof, Farhana binti Abdul Halim, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri and New Sin Yew; vice-chairpersons: Jannie Lasimbang (Sabah), Ahmad b. Awang Ali (Sarawak), Abd Halim b. Wan Ismail (East Peninsula), Thomas Fann (South Peninsula), Simon Lee Ying Wai (Central Peninsula) and Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon (North Peninsula).

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