Govt has no respect for academic freedom

Silence not golden but thoughts are, lawyers tell academics under muzzling threat

Lawyer Syahredzan Johan says University Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom’s charge shows that government has no respect for academic freedom, when an academician can be charged for giving an opinion.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2 – Malaysia’s academics must use their minds to speak up loudly or risk losing the keys to intellectual freedom of speech, lawyers warn as the government widens its net against dissent.

Lawyers contacted by Malay Mail Online fear the impending prosecution of University Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom will have a “chilling effect” on the country’s intellectuals with Putrajaya trying to dictate what can and cannot be said or done.

“Azmi’s charge shows that the government has no respect for academic freedom, when an academician [sic] can be charged for giving an opinion,” Syahredzan Johan, who chairs the Bar Council’s National Young Lawyers Committee, said.

“I would tell them to stand their ground and do not be cowed. They should not forget that they have the right to an opinion,” the civil liberties lawyer told Malay Mail Online.

Azmi is expected to be charged under Section 4(1)(b) today, for his comments on the 2009 Perak crisis, which he made in an article to Malay Mail Online, published on August 14.

It is not known which part of the article had landed Azmi in the soup but Malay Mail Online understands that the law professor was previously investigated for his quotes in the article titled, “Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor impasse, Pakatan told”, which also featured remarks from Syahredzan and renowned constitutional expert Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari.

“Academics should not be afraid because they have a responsibility to society ? to tell the truth, on what is right and wrong,” lawyer Eric Paulsen from Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) told Malay Mail Online.

“Yes, there is an element of risk but Malaysia’s democracy is under siege and we need the support of every right thinking Malaysians including from the academia.”

According to Paulsen, the charge proved that “nothing is sacred anymore”, since anybody can now be a target and any topic can be construed as seditious if it does not support the government or toe its line.

Another civil liberties lawyer, Edmund Bon, echoed Paulsen’s thought, saying that the charge amounted to unlawful discrimination based on political views, and a persecution of Malaysians who express legitimate dissent.

Silence not golden but thoughts are, lawyers tell academics under muzzling threat
By Zurairi AR
September 2, 2014 – Malay Mail Online


Shocking high-handedness in arrest of PPS members

Bad judgment by cops in arresting anti-crime volunteers, say shocked groups

Civil society and lawyers expressed shock over the high-handedness of the police in arresting Penang’s Voluntary Patrol Unit (PPS) members shortly after their participation in a state-level Merdeka celebration today.

They said the untimely act at a patriotic event was a bad judgement that put the Federal law enforcement agency in a negative light.

They said the incident occurred due to strained Federal government-state relationship and citizens became the victims.

Lawyers For Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen (pic) said the mass arrests were a clear abuse of power by the police as it is seen to have been carried out only because the PPS was linked to the DAP-led Penang government.

“The people linked to the PPS have not committed any crime but on the other hand they worked to ensure the safety of the ordinary citizens and visitors to the state,” he said.

Paulsen said there was double standards practised when Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had even endorsed questionable organisations like Pekida and Tiga Line just because they were supportive of the government.

He also took a swipe at Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abdu Bakar for his lack of professionalism in applying the law fairly.

“Khalid has not changed for the better despite him being found liable by the High Court and the Court of Appeal recently for being responsible for the custodial death of A.Kugan in 2009 because he did not follow procedures,” he said.

Khalid, in that case, was specially pointed out for abusing his authority while in office.

Paulsen said this in response to the arrest of PPS members this morning, hours after Zahid advised Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng not to challenge the police on the legality of the organisation.

The PPS members were stopped by the police immediately after they had participated in the official march-past, as part of the annual parade for the celebrations at the Padang Kota Lama in George Town at about 10.15am.

They were taken to the nearby Lebuh Pantai police station for questioning. Police had the station cordoned off and guarded by the Federal Reserve Unit.

In his tweet today, Khalid urged PPS leaders to surrender or risk having their homes raided by police.

Zahid and Khalid yesterday said that the Registrar of Societies (RoS) had stated that the PPS was not a legal organisation as it had not been registered.

Lim insisted that the unit had only helped the public during emergencies and disasters.

He maintained that PPS was legal and legitimate as it was a state body instituted under the Penang government.

Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng (pic, right) said he doubted very much police had the power to arrest PPS members just because they were not registered with the RoS.

He said it had been legally pronounced that any unregistered society could function as long it was not a threat to national security, public order and morality.

Yap said an unregistered society must not be equated with an illegal entity and this had been affirmed in a 2012 High Court ruling brought by electoral reform group, Bersih 2.0.

“You cannot declare a society illegal just because it has not been registered,” he said.

Human Rights lawyer Andrew Khoo (pic, below) said the arrest was not appropriate and lacked in judgement as the PPS members participated in a patriotic event in conjunction with Merdeka Day.

“Were they told what offence was committed that warranted such mass arrest. Were they given legal representation as required under the law before statements were recorded,” he asked.

Bad judgment by cops in arresting anti-crime volunteers, say shocked groups
Published: 31 August 2014 – TMI


Arrest of PPS members makes us laughing stock

Gobind says the arrests are “nonsense” as PPS members are volunteers helping to fight crime.

KUALA LUMPUR: DAP’s Gobind Singh Deo had some strong words for Prime Minister Najib Razak, saying the arrests of PPS members on Merdeka Day was “yet another unfortunate example of how Malaysia and the Najib administration will again become a laughing stock to the international world.”

Gobind who is Chairman of DAP’s National Legal Bureau said Malaysia was probably the only country in the world that arrested volunteers who helped in the fight against crime.

“We are probably the only country which arrests its citizens who voluntarily help in the fight against crime and to keep our streets safe!” he said in a statement where he also demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of the arrested volunteers of Penang state’s Voluntary Patrol Squad.

Gobind also said the arrests were “utter nonsense” and reflected badly upon the Royal Malaysian police.

He said, “Instead of focusing on criminals and improving safety, the police act against citizens who are committed towards fighting crime.”

Gobind also brought up the case of residents who grouped together to keep their neighbourhoods safe asking, “Are they also at risk of arrest and detention?”

The incident of the arrests of PPS members took a turn for the worse when 62-year-old Penang executive councillor Phee Boon Poh was also arrested when he went to the Northeast police headquarters to give his statement.

Arrest of PPS members makes us laughing stock
September 1, 2014- FMT


Sedition used to silence Gandhi

NGO: British used sedition to silence Gandhi

As the nation celebrates independence from British rule today, the government’s use of the colonial-era Sedition Act 1948 has come under severe criticism.

Rights group Proham notes that the British had used the law to silence India’s iconic Mahatma Gandhi who had questioned the illegitimacy of the colonial rulers.

“Proham is of the opinion that the Sedition Act 1948 is a legislation which was first introduced by the colonial administration to stifle the activities of independent fighters.

“While it was not extensively used in Malaya then, the situation was very different in the Indian independence struggle when the then colonial administration used it extensively to arrest and detain Gandhi and other Indian independence fighters,” said the NGO’s chairperson Kuthbul Zaman and secretary-general Denison Jayasooria.

The duo in a joint statement today said the Act must not be used to silence ” legitimate questions and criticisms” against politicians and rulers as it is part of the democratic process.

Instead, they argued, the government should be “more concerned with those who advocate the use of violence and associated with groups locally or internationally”.

The lead up to this Merdeka has seen the government cranking up the use of the Sedition Act against opposition leaders and critics, with four being charged in just a space of last week.

This comes in spite of the governments repeated insistence that Prime Minister Najib Razak’s promise to repeal of the Act made a whole two years ago, is still on track.

Aug 31, 2014 – Malaysiakini
NGO: British used sedition to silence Gandhi


Sedition Act used to silence critics

Putrajaya using Sedition Act to silence critics, says Bersih 2.0

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) today expressed concern at the continued use of the Sedition Act 1948 “to silence dissenters and freedom of speech”.

In a statement, Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah said Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad of PAS was the latest opposition lawmaker to be charged with sedition.

“Khalid had merely given his opinion about dissolving the executive powers of the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais),” Maria said.

“But he has now been charged under the Sedition Act 1948 for giving his opinion.”

Maria said Seri Delima state assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer was expected to be charged with sedition for uttering the remark “Umno celaka”.

Furthermore, Pandan MP Rafizi Ramli from PKR also has several cases against him pending under the Sedition Act.

“The list of opposition figures and activists who have been charged under the Sedition Act is not short either,” Maria said.

On the list are Padang Serai MP N. Surendran (PKR), student activist Adam Adli, Batu MP Tian Chua (PKR) and Seputeh MP Teresa Kok (DAP).

Maria said Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia president Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman had also been charged with sedition.

“Considering the latest developments, it is clear that the Sedition Act will continue to be used as a weapon to silence dissenting voices.

“This is clear infringement of democratic spirit which always encourages different opinions and voices.”

She said a government, which curtailed the freedom of speech, was also denying voters the rights of personal opinions which influenced their choice during the general election.

Bersih 2.0 called on Putrajaya to abolish the Sedition Act 1948.

“Putrajaya should be confident that the people can draw their own conclusions when confronted with alternative opinions or provocative speeches.

“Malaysians do not need such a draconian act to decide how to think,” Maria said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had promised to abolish archaic and draconian acts when he took over the administration of the country in 2009.

Putrajaya using Sedition Act to silence critics, says Bersih 2.0
26 August 2014 – TMI


Dr M only happy when clone takes over

Dr M only happy when ‘Dr Mahathir clone’ takes over Putrajaya, says Musa Hitam

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will not be satisfied until there is a clone of himself in the seat of power, says Tun Musa Hitam, in reference to the former prime minister’s latest outburst against the Najib administration.

Musa, who was deputy prime minister from 1981 to 1986, said Dr Mahathir had never stopped feeling unhappy with any sitting leader since leaving public office in 2003.

“He will only be satisfied if there is a Mahathir clone who becomes the top leader in Malaysia,” Musa told The Malaysian Insider in an exclusive interview this week.

He was commenting on Dr Mahathir’s decision to withdraw support for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s government.

Dr Mahathir also outlined a laundry list of complaints against Putrajaya.

“Look at all the deputies who served during Dr Mahathir’s 22 years in office. I was considered dangerous. Tun Ghafar Baba (1986-1993) was considered to be all right, loyal. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (1993-1998) was considered to be a terrible fellow.

“Anwar was said to be disloyal and alleged to have done this and that. Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (1999-2003) was such a nice guy,” Musa said.

Musa said it did not take long before Dr Mahathir viewed Abdullah as being Malaysia’s worst and weakest prime minister simply because Abdullah disregarded his wishes.

“So out with him,” he said with a wave of his hand.

Musa, 80, left the government in 1986 after tendering his resignation over differences with Dr Mahathir.

The following year, he teamed up with his then arch political foe, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, to take on Dr Mahathir and Ghafar, then a deputy prime minister and Umno vice-president for the party leadership.

Dr Mahathir defeated Razaleigh by 43 votes while Musa failed to retain his post by a similar margin.

While Razaleigh went on to form Semangat 46, Musa remained in Umno.

Musa said when Najib succeeded Abdullah, Dr Mahathir was announcing that the former was his boy and was busy advising him to do this and that.

“But when it appeared that Najib knew his mind and was doing things on his own, it got worse and worse for Dr Mahathir.

“Dr Mahathir felt that Najib was not consulting him on important issues but instead subjecting himself to foreign influences,” Musa said.

“That is Dr Mahathir for you, do not believe what he says about claiming that his criticism of Putrajaya is friendly advice.

“His objective is to get Najib out of Putrajaya,” Musa said flatly.

Dr M only happy when ‘Dr Mahathir clone’ takes over Putrajaya, says Musa Hitam
28 August 2014 – TMI


REPEAL the Sedition Act!

Movement to repeal the Sedition Act

In July 2012, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would repeal the Sedition Act 1948. The announcement was made as part of the Government’s political transformation plan, which included repealing the Internal Security Act and annulling the three subsisting proclamations of emergency.

In place of the Sedition Act, the Government would table a “National Harmony Bill”, seeking to “find a balance between every citizen’s freedom of expression, and the need to handle the complex nature of the country’s multi-racial and multi-religious society.”

Earlier this year, the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) drafted three bills to replace the Sedition Act. The three bills were made public in order to gain feedback and consultation from stakeholders and interested parties. However, because of pressure from certain quarters, it appears that the three bills have now been shelved indefinitely.

The drafting of three bills was the Government’s most serious attempt thus far to repeal the Sedition Act. Two years after the Prime Minister’s announcement, the Act is still in force.

A law that is still part of the statute books is still valid. Legally, there is nothing to stop the Government from carrying on investigations and prosecutions under the Act. But by promising to repeal the Act, the Government has tacitly acknowledged that the Act must go. There is a legitimate expectation that the Sedition Act will be on its last legs, coming ever closer to its expiry date and that there would be less reliance on the Sedition Act.

Not so. The Act it is still being applied on the citizens of this country even after the Prime Minister’s announcement. It has been used on politicians, like the late Karpal Singh, whose conviction still stands as his appeal would have abated with his passing. It has been used on activists and political dissidents. It has been used on netizens who say or post “offensive” things online. Our freedom of speech and expression is still being restricted by the Government through the use of the Sedition Act.

The Act is a colonial vestige. It was enacted before the Federation of Malaya achieved independence and it was used by the British to deal with militant communists insurgents at the time.

The Act criminalises “sedition” by making it an offence to do anything which has a “seditious tendency” or to utter any seditious words. “Seditious” is defined in the Act as any act, speech, words, publication or other thing that qualifies as one having a “seditious tendency”.

What is a “seditious tendency”? Almost anything can and would have a “seditious tendency”, going by the Act’s definition. Any criticism of the Government would be seditious. Any comment made that can raise ill will and hostility within the population. What is said or done may even be justified, yet would still fall foul of the Act. For a sedition charge to succeed, the prosecution does not even need to establish intention of the accused to be seditious.

Freedom of speech and expression is not absolute. But restrictions to freedom of speech and expression should not be arbitrarily applied. The threshold should not be what the Government believes to be seditious. It is not for the Government to decide what can and cannot be said. The Act is so wide and arbitrary that it can and has been abused by the Government to stop people from saying things it does not condone.

So what do we do when the Government has not fulfilled its pledge to repeal the Sedition Act? Well, we as citizens should pressure the Government to come good on its promise. There have been repeated calls from political parties, civil society and the Malaysian Bar for the Government to repeal the Act. But not a concentrated effort.

The National Young Lawyers Committee of the Bar Council will take the initiative. But this is not just a movement for lawyers. It will be a nationwide movement, made out of all members of society. The law affects everyone, so its repeal must be demanded by everyone.

The time for talking is over. It is time to take action. It is time for all those who want to see the end of the Sedition Act to come together. It is time for a movement – focused and dedicated to a singular goal – to make the Government repeal the Sedition Act.

Movement to repeal the Sedition Act
by syahredzan johan
August 25, 2014 – thestar.com.my

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