12 July 2012

Malaysia's Political Maturity: Repealing Sedition Act

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced yesterday that Malaysia would repeal its Sedition Act.

The 64-year-old law will be replaced by a National Harmony Act.

The Sedition Act criminalises seditious speech that provokes hatred between races, with punishments of up to three-year prison sentences.  Some people say that it has been used to stifle political dissent and as a means to restrict criticism of policies that protect the rights of the ethnic Malays.

The Sedition Act represents a bygone era in Malaysia, and its repeal and replacement will mark another step forward in Malaysia's development, according to Mr Najib.

The decision is being made to better balance ensuring citizens' freedom of expression and the need to handle the complex nature of Malaysia's multi-racial and multi-religious society.  It will help the country better manage its national fault lines and strengthen national cohesion by protecting national unity and nurturing religious harmony.

The Attorney-General will hold a full public consultation before the new legislation is drafted.

Mr Najib said that other changes were planned to shape a politically mature Malaysian society.

The Malaysian Government last year repealed the Internal Security Act, also a remnant from British colonial rule, which allowed indefinite detention without trial.  It was replaced by the Security Offences Bill, under which people will not be detained because of their political beliefs.

Now that Malaysia has led the way for a more mature democracy, will neighbouring Singapore with its multi-racial and multi-religious society follow suit and repeal its Internal Security Act and Sedition Act?

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