|PM: Sedition Act to go|
|Thursday, 12 July 2012 08:44am|
©The New Straits Times (Used by permission)
by AZURA ABAS AND ILI LIYANA MOKHTAR
FREEDOM OF SPEECH ASSURED: New National Harmony Act to help strengthen unity
KUALA LUMPUR: THE government has decided to abolish the Sedition Act 1948 and replace it with the National Harmony Act, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said last night.
The decision was made as the government wanted to find a mechanism that could best balance the need for freedom of speech with the provisions stipulated in the Federal Constitution, he said.
He added that the new act would address the complex diversity that existed in the country.
“With this new act, we will be better equipped to manage our national fault lines. It will also help strengthen national cohesion by protecting national unity and nurturing religious harmony,” he said at the Attorney-General’s Chambers dinner here.
Without an ideal balance, Najib said, the freedom of speech assured under the Federal Constitution would likely be inhibited, thus restricting creativity and innovation and releasing the spirit of chauvinism and extremism.
“In an open society today, where education and socio-economic levels are higher and expectations are higher, where people have access to the information superhighway which could cause information overload, a balance needs to be achieved.
“The new provisions proposed under the National Harmony Act will emphasise the nurturing of the spirit of harmony and mutual respect among Malaysians of various races and religions.”
Najib added that the provisions under the act reflected the government’s commitment to protect all religions and races from the irresponsible actions of certain quarters.
“This new act will be more specific in nature and will enable us to act against those who harp on sensitive issues to create disunity and instability.
“Actions such as these will be regarded as crimes against the people of Malaysia,” he said.
Najib said “as citizens of Malaysia, we must be of the attitude that if there is any race or religion being condemned, every Malaysian should feel the pain and defend each other”.
“I am not saying our efforts will always run smoothly or we will always find success, but it will be a mistake not to have the moral courage and political commitment to get started just because the journey is difficult.
“We have a responsibility to future generations to let them inherit a better Malaysia.”
Najib said the government was aware of the perception that the Sedition Act inhibited actions.
Although such an assumption was not justified, there was a need to eliminate the perception, he said.
“These new provisions will not prevent people from criticising the government and the administration of justice. Any act of contempt of court will be handled by the judiciary through the provisions provided for in court.”
He said the act would not set aside three key principles: upholding the monarchy, maintaining unity and the people’s rights.
He also pointed out it was necessary to stop any attempt to create animosity among the people.
The prime minister also called on the public to give their views.
“I remember the viewpoint of British prominent philosopher John Loke who said ‘the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom’.”
He said the A-G’s Chambers had been assigned to compile the views of all stakeholders.
On April 15, when tabling the Security Offences Bill (Special Measures) in the Dewan Rakyat, Najib announced that the government would be reviewing the Sedition Act.
Najib had said one must tackle any attempt to question the people’s rights as provided for under Article 151, 153 and 181 of the Federal Constitution.
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