Subject: The Government of Malaysia Must Withdraw the Sedition Act 1948, It Violates the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
To: H.E. Amb. Dato’ Hasnudin Hamzah
Permanent Representative of Malaysia to ASEAN
Permanent Mission of Malaysia to ASEAN
Jl. HR Rasuna Said No. 1-3 Kav X/6
Jakarta 12950, Indonesia
Tel: (62-21) 52905634
Fax: (62-21) 52905635
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org
The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) – a human rights non-governmental organization based in Jakarta – strongly deplore the implementation of Sedition Act 1948 by the Government of Malaysia. The Malaysian government has increasingly employed the Sedition Act, a British colonial era law, to intimidate and silence political opponents.
We condemn the police on-going sedition dragnet using colonial law, including the latest investigation of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, law professor Dr. Aziz Bari, former deputy chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) Tan Sri Simon Sipaun and law student Dalbinder Singh.
In the past two months, we have seen the biggest crackdown against citizens since Operasi Lalang in 1987. According to SUARAM’s monitoring report that we received, since August 2014, at least 17 individuals had been probed under the Sedition Act and a total of 8 individuals had been charged. Such stark increase in the use of the draconian Sedition Act has had a chilling effect across all public discourse in the country and it is seen as a government’s scheme to curtail civil liberties and stifle freedom of speech.
We strongly question if the prime minister is still in control of his government in view of the police continuing to blatantly ignore his public pledge to repeal the Sedition Act and invoke the Sedition Act arbitrarily. The speech of the prime minister about fighting extremism with moderation clearly rings hollow when he himself is allowing extremists in his party and non-state actors such as Perkasa and ISMA to hold hostage of the country at the expense of the rights and freedoms of the majority in the population.
The Sedition Act 1948 permits restrictions on freedom of expression beyond those allowed by international human rights law and should be repealed. The act includes vague offenses such as uttering “any seditious words” without defining what constitutes “sedition” or “seditious words.” It broadly outlaws any “seditious tendency” that would “bring into hatred or contempt or excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government.”
We believe that the actions carried out by Malaysian Government have violated international obligations comprised in the Declaration that Malaysia has promised, such as Universal Declaration on Human Rights Article 19: “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.”
Also bearing in mind that Malaysia is a member of Association of South-East Asia Nations (ASEAN) which is obliged under Article 23 of ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD); to assure its people has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information, whether orally, in writing or through any other medium of that person’s choice.
It is very important for Indonesia to ensure our neighboring country – Malaysia – to improve human rights standards in regional area as stated both in Term of Reference (TOR) of ASEAN and ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) which have provision about freedom of opinion.
Therefore, by sending this letter, we would like to demand and urge your Government to abide international obligations and assure the restoration of a democratic government based on human rights.
Jakarta, October 7, 2014
Executive Coordinator of KontraS
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