Home Ministry being dishonest on repeal of draconian laws

N Surendran & Lawyers for Liberty

Modified 22 Apr 2019, 3:22 am

LETTER | In a statement on April 20, the Home Ministry responded to accusations of backtracking on reforms by claiming that discussions are still ongoing with the police, Attorney-General's Chambers and others to amend or repeal the Sedition Act 1948, Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), Printing Press and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA), and Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota). 

It also said that Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) and the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) will be amended in the next Parliament session.

Firstly, what are the amendments to the Sosma and PAA? Why are they still kept secret? Going by the recently tabled amendments to the National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016, we can have no confidence that these so-called amendments to the Sosma and PAA will remove the undemocratic nature of these laws. 

This is because the NSC Act amendments betrayed public expectations by leaving most of its most draconian provisions intact. To protect the public from another NSC Act-style betrayal, the proposed amendments must be made public immediately.

Secondly, why are 'discussions' still ongoing when Pakatan Harapan's promise was to repeal entirely the Sedition Act, Poca and PPPA? To 'discuss' means repeal is not certain, and this goes totally against the promise in the manifesto that these three laws will be repealed outright.

All that is required is a simple bill tabled in Parliament to revoke those laws. This could easily have been done in the very first session of the new Parliament in July of last year. Instead, the Home Ministry has been periodically producing flimsy and baseless excuses for not repealing these oppressive laws.

The ministry's claim that the repeal of these laws "must be studied comprehensively so that national security is not affected" is untenable and plainly dishonest. This blanket excuse of "national security" was similarly wielded like a mantra by the corrupt and repressive BN government.

When BN defended these very laws, the then-opposition vigorously condemned them. But now when in government, Harapan claims their repeal may affect national security. Oppressive laws cannot magically transform into just and acceptable laws simply because Harapan is now in power.

Contrary to the Home Ministry's exaggerated claims, national security will not be affected by the repeal of these laws, as there exist a panoply of other laws in the Penal Code and other statutes to deal with serious crime or words that may incite disturbance, as acknowledged by Harapan leaders themselves during the previous BN government.

As for the PPPA 1984, it is anathema to the existence of a free media that is able to fearlessly question or criticise the government. 

The existence of the PPPA will prevent press scrutiny of any future government that may practice kleptocracy, corruption and repression as did Najib and the former BN government. What is the Home Ministry's excuse for still keeping or 'discussing' this pernicious law?

There are many former champions of civil liberties and press freedom now in cabinet or otherwise in high governmental positions. Why have they gone silent on the dithering and delaying tactics of the Home Ministry?

We urge the Home Ministry to stop dragging their feet on these crucially important repeals. Malaysia cannot call itself a proper or proud democracy whilst these undemocratic laws remain on the statute books.

At the coming session of Parliament, the government must table a single omnibus bill which abolishes all these oppressive laws. 

The government must not try to fool the public by doling out diluted reforms in a piecemeal manner. 

Our patience is wearing thin. Nothing less than complete repeal of the repressive laws will be acceptable to the millions of Malaysians who voted for change in the historic 14th general election. 

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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