Malaysians must reject this colonial-era law with a collective voice to regain our freedom and dignity as a nation, asserts Ronald Benjamin.
The BN government’s use of the Sedition Act for views that are contrary to its mainstream political constructs and ideology is a serious threat to the sovereignty of Malaysia as a nation.
Freedom of expression that celebrates diverse opinions is part and parcel of a free and dynamic sovereign nation. Such a nation will not give way to a coterie of elites who try to impose their political, economic, or religious ideology on the masses. The freedom of expression of the people to express diverse political and social beliefs with the intention of seeking the truth is essential to protect the nation from domestic authoritarianism as well as imperial hegemony that comes from the collaboration between foreign and domestic elites.
Malaysia celebrated its formation on 16 September as a collective nation that adheres to the balancing of constitutional principles and the adherence to a democratic way of life; NOT for the security of the coterie of political elites in Umno or the religious extremists and business elites that aligned with them. It is unfortunate that the Attorney General’s office appears to have been used in a political vendetta against legitimate dissent.
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When one reads deeply into the Sedition Act and its origins in 1948, it was basically formulated to protect British political and economic interests against any credible dissent that threatened its order in any persistent form, such as through acts of collective civil disobedience. It is ironic that Umno, which played a part in obtaining independence for the country, has fallen into the role of neocolonial-type ruler that uses ethno-religious rights and feudalistic loyalties to curb the divergent voices of the nation that could threaten its existence.
The selective use of the Sedition Act – under which certain individuals aligned to the ruling establishment are not prosecuted for extreme ethno-centric statements – makes a mockery of our justice system.
The question is, why are the authorities going on a sedition blitz at this particular time? Why is social media targeted? Is it a deliberate plan to divert the attention of the people from real issues such as the high cost of living, which has affected the well being of a majority of Malaysians? Is there a fear that the social media’s speed of information transfer could create a type of civil disobedience that may weaken the power of the ruling elite?
The sedition blitz comes in the context of higher costs of living in the country, stagnant low wages among the Malaysian workforce, the deeper marginalisation of lower-income Malaysians, and the ruling elites’ and their cronies’ monopolisation of businesses dealing in several essential goods, services, and resources in the country. According to economic analyst Manokaran Mottain (The Star, 20 September 2014), he wrote that inflation would rise from the current 3.3 per cent to 4 per cent in 2015 with the imposition of the GST. This factor would further erode the purchasing power of Malaysia’s lower-middle class.
It seems obvious that Malay rights and the issue of the sovereignty of the rulers are a convenient emotional tool to divert the attention of the Malay community and to prevent them from joining in solidarity with other ethnic groups in opposing the ruling elite’s dominance of the economy.
A collective educated grassroots multi-ethnic Malaysia that views socio-economic justice from a common humanistic struggle is the greatest threat to the well being of the corporate elites aligned with the ruling BN government. This is the motive of the Umno-led government’s use of the Sedition Act on those with dissenting views. It creates a culture of fear that would suppress legitimate dissent while showing that Umno is the firm protector of the Malay community.
Malaysians must therefore be aware of the motives of the ruling elites, their divide-and-rule policies through the use of the Sedition Act to weaken the aspiration of Malaysians as a whole for social justice. It is similar to the actions of the British colonial rulers of the past. The Sedition Act is used to protect the elites who are increasingly becoming irrelevant and aloof to the struggles of the common people.
Malaysians must reject this colonial-era law with a collective voice to regain our freedom and dignity as a nation. Having divergent thoughts that reflect the deeply imbedded flaws of one’s culture and surroundings is the sovereign right of all Malaysians. Freedom of expression is not the monopoly of the political and religious elites.