|Thumbs up for Harmony Act|
|Friday, 13 July 2012 08:51am|
©The Star (Used by permission)
by ISABELLE LAI
PETALING JAYA: The proposed new National Harmony Act has the backing of civil society groups and professional bodies, provided it is drafted in a transparent manner and upholds fundamental liberties.
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam said consultation with all stakeholders was essential in ensuring the new Act would be in line with fundamental human rights principles.
“The Commission looks forward to engaging with the Attorney- General’s Chambers and other stakeholders in the drafting of the new law to address particular concerns and to ensure that the provisions provided under it are consistent with universally accepted principles, thus promoting and protecting human rights in the country,” he said in a statement yesterday.
He welcomed the proposed repeal of the Sedition Act 1948, one of many laws which it had urged the Government to repeal.
However, he said recent law reform efforts including the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 had generated some concerns as they were “done swiftly and without much consultation.”
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) chairman K. Arumugam said the National Harmony Act must contain provisions that protect every individual’s fundamental liberties.
“If it will enable public expression and growth of information in the media, then we will welcome such an Act,” he told The Star.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced on Wednesday that the new Act represented the latest measure under the country’s political transformation plan.
He said the decision was made to find a mechanism that would determine the best balance between guaranteeing the citizens’ freedom of expression and tackling the complex nature of Malaysia’s multi-racial and multi-religious society.
Malaysian Bar president Lim Chee Wee said the Government must ensure that the new law refrained as much as possible from criminalising speech and ideas.
He welcomed Najib’s assurance that the AG would be responsible for ensuring proper consultation with all stakeholders.
Meanwhile, while welcoming the proposed repeal, DAP secretary-general and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng called on Najib to immediately withdraw all charges under the Sedition Act against DAP national chairman Karpal Singh and other leaders.
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