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Don't backtrack on Sedition Act moratorium, gov't urged

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Lawyers for Liberty executive director Latheefa Koya has urged the government not to backtrack on the moratorium on Sedition Act 1948 and other contentious security laws.

Latheefa was responding to the cabinet decision to grant an exemption for the use of the law in relation to the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple riots last week.

"The government must not fall into the trap of legitimising the narrative, spun by rightwing groups and political parties seeking to make this (the temple riots) a racial and religious issue, by backtracking on the election promise it made to abolish the Sedition Act.

"When the moratorium was imposed, it was with the intention to abolish. 

"By lifting the moratorium, the government has betrayed its vow to the public, leaving the future of the repeal of these laws uncertain," she said in a statement today.

As Latheefa noted, existing laws are sufficient enough to punish those who incite public disorder or cause alarm to the public.

The provisions of the Penal Code, she pointed out, penalises insult with intent to provoke a breach of peace and statements conducing to public mischief, and contains an array of provisions related to unlawful assembly and rioting.

Sections 155 and 156 of the Penal Code even cover situations of agents hiring thugs to riot and also any benefit gained from rioting on behalf of anyone, she added.

Latheefa stressed that by suspending the moratorium, the government has damaged the trust citizens put in it to usher in a 'new Malaysia' free of "draconian laws".

'Far-reaching and arbitrary powers'

The lawyer urged the government to realise that the Sedition Act and other security laws provide for far-reaching and arbitrary powers, and should be abolished on this basis alone to prevent future governments from potentially misusing them.

By using these laws once again, she said, Pakatan Harapan would prolong a BN-era practice that it vowed to end.

"Do not turn Harapan into BN, as these laws have facilitated some of the country’s worst human rights violations and their potential for abuse has long and repeatedly been proven."

The police have opened four investigations papers under the Sedition Act in connection with the temple riots.

The cabinet had previously said it was suspending the use of the law pending its repeal.

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