National Human Rights Society (Hakam) secretary-general Lim Wei Jiet said Hakam is deeply concerned with Putrajaya's decision to allow the use of "repressive laws" including the Sedition Act 1948 in relation to the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple riots in Seafield, Subang Jaya.
"Hakam fully supports the government’s intention to restore peace and public order, and for those who incite racial hatred and rioting to be punished under the law.
"However, the current government must not emulate the previous administration in using repressive laws to deal with this situation.
"It was for this reason that Pakatan Harapan's manifesto promised to abolish these laws. The continued use of these obnoxious laws violates the integrity and credibility of building a New Malaysia distinct from the old," he said in a statement today.
Sufficient existing provisions
Lim stressed that there were sufficient provisions to deal with the current situation without having to resort to other laws.
As such, he said the government should "immediately repudiate" its decision to use repressive laws against suspects.
"Hakam believes there are existing provisions in the Penal Code to prosecute offenders in these cases, such as Section 298 (uttering words, et cetera, with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person), Section 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace) and Section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief).
"Hakam, therefore, urges the government to stand firm with its manifesto promises, respect human rights and to uphold the rule of law.
"Public order and human rights can exist hand-in-hand - and this government must prove that this is the way for Malaysia to move forward," he said.
A moratorium had been imposed on the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (Pota), Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) pending a review.
However, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said he had raised the matter with the cabinet and he had received consent to enforce those laws, particularly the Sedition Act and Section 233 of the CMA.
Lim said the Sedition Act and Section 233 of the CMA are phrased too arbitrarily and have been subject to abuse many times under the previous regime.
He also criticised Poca and Sosma for providing the authorities with “wide powers” to detain a person without trial without judicial oversight.