The National Harmony Act, which will replace the Sedition Act 1948, allows criticism of the government and leaders in the effort to guarantee freedom of speech as enshrined in the country’s Constitution, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz.
He said under the Sedition Act this was not permitted.
“The Sedition Act has a provision of not allowing the raising of anger against the government, but now we have discarded it as criticism levelled at the government and leaders is legitimate under the freedom of speech guaranteed under the Constitution."
Finally, a federal minister admitted that his government cannot accept and tolerate criticism. An elected government which does not welcome criticism and chooses to hide behind a draconian legislation should not be accepted as legitimate and democratic.
However, the soon-to-be introduced act should not adopt any form of subtle suppression of freedom of speech. Fair and open discourse on citizenship (especially the issue of issuing fast track citizenship to Muslim migrants in Sabah must be discussed and investigated), race (especially on the end of all forms of race discrimination masqueraded as affirmative policy), religion (especially on non-discrimination of all religions) and other issues.
Open discussion if conducted properly can help to improve public policy and governance. No one, not even the royalty, is above the constitution.
Repealing the Sedition Act alone is not enough. The BN government must drop all charges against its political opponents using the Sedition Act. It must tender a public apology for having used and manipulated the draconian act to silence its opponents and critics.
Nazri said, however, there was no absolute freedom of speech in a multiracial and multi-religious country, and as such the new Act would continue to protect racial harmony and the institution of the Malay Rulers.
“There should be no absolute freedom to the extent we can call people pariah, pimps and so on."
Nazri should be reminded that any selective implementation of law is surely going to erode the government's and public institutions credibility.
UMNO/BN should refrain its members and leaders from slandering their opponents too. Otherwise, it would create an impression there's a different set of laws for the BN and another set for the rest.
Since criticisms are now allowed, will hostile intimidations of political analysts, critics and opponents stop too?