In Malaysia several laws exist which give power to the government to arrest people who are not fitting into their picture.
One of these laws it the so-called “Sedition Act”. It was introduced during the British colonial time in 1948. Anyone who makes remarks, which could contain “seditious tendencies” can get arrested and convicted. This means people who “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the government” or show “feelings off ill-will and hostility between different races”. Under the reign of former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi the law was extended.
People who oppose to change the education policy by e.g. emphasizing teachings in English language can be found guilty as well. The sedition act isn´t conform to the constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. At the same time there are articles in the constitution which allows the parliament to enact “such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or of any Legislative Assembly or to provide against contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to any offence”.
The arbitrary of this law becomes clearly if you look at following example: Critics against the special rights for “Bumiputera” (= Orang Aslis, Malays) are seen as seditious, at the same time it doesn´t seem to be a big deal to spread racial hatred against other ethnicities. In 2013 Perkasa President Ibrahim Ali called on Muslims to seize and burn bibles, which contain the word “Allah” and other Arabic terms.
These bibles would constitute a provocation against Muslims. This is a statement which isn´t only intolerant against Christianity, but spreading hatred against other ethnicities as well. While there aren´t even investigations against Ibrahim Ali, other people- who are seen as political dissents- have got arrested, charged and convicted.
The list of political dissents is long. To illustrate the absurdity of the “Sedition Act” I inserted the latest Sedition dragnet which I could find. This dragnet only shows some of the probes, prosecutions and convictions in 2014.
Another key figure is P. Uthayakumar, who is the leader of the Indian movement “Hindraf”. P. Uthayakumar was arrested in 2013, because he published remarks on the Police Watch Website through a letter to the British minister Gordon Brown in 2007. He was released in 2014.
Malaysian politician and lawyer- Karpal Singh- was affected as well. He was one of the lawyers who represented opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim during his first case. Because of Karpal Singhs seditious remarks in court he was charged in 2000, but the charges were dropped. In 2009 Karpal Singh was charged again because he accused the sultan of Perak in the wake of the Perak (federal state in Malaysia) constitutional crisis: The Sultan would have acted beyond his constitutional powers. In 2013 a 73 old man, named Karpal Singh, sitting in a wheelchair, was convicted. In 2014 this former detainee was killed in a car accident.
Many press conferences and demonstrations took place, speeches were given and petitions were signed against this draconian law.
Although Prime Minister- Mr. Najib Razak- promised to remove this law by replacing it by another law, called “Harmony Bill” in 2012, nothing happened. At the end of November 2014 he broke this promise by stating that the sedition act won´t be removed but extended. People who are fighting for the independence of Sabah and Sarawak can get convicted as well.
UMNO claims that Malaysia is a democratic state, which was accepted by other nations. This made it possible that Malaysia became- for example- a member of the “United Nations”, although many things are totally going wrong within the country. Prime Minister Najib Razak told the United Nations to fight against extremism and intolerance, but the things happening in Malaysia are based on intolerance. Sadly no one outside of Malaysia seems to care about this fact.
If a government claims to be a democratic nation and wants to become more powerful, it should stick to the international principles. Limiting people´s freedom of speech isn´t designated in the international law. Najib Razak broke his promise, a promise that has been made two years ago. Let´s hope that such a government will face resistance.