MCA, MIC and Gerakan utterly irrelevant, but have Sarawak and Sabah also become irrelevant in BN national decision-making process on issues directly affecting the two states?

When buckling under pressure from the rightists and extremists in UMNO and UMNO-sponsored NGOs, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak not only reneged on his specific promise in July 2012 to repeal the Sedition Act, but added salt to injury by declaring that the Sedition Act would be further strengthened and become even more draconian and repressive.

MCA, MIC and Gerakan are utterly irrelevant in the UMNO-dominated Barisan Nasional scheme of things, as evident by the way the views of these three parties and their leaders were ignored and not even sought in Umno-BN’s major decision-making process.

However, are the views and legitimate interests of Sarawak and Sabah similarly disregarded in the Umno-Barisan Nasional national decision-making process, especially in matters directly affecting the people in the two states?

Najib announced yesterday that the Sedition Act would not only be retained, it would be fortified, so as to deal with calls for secession of Sarawak and Sabah.

Have the Sarawak and Saban Barisan Nasional leaders been fully consulted and given their consent to the proposal to criminalise calls for secession of Sarawak and Sabah by making them offences under the repressive Sedition Act?

DAP opposes any call for the secession of Sarawak and Sabah from Malaysia but I fully agree the Sarawak Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr. James Masing that only a small group of people have advocated secession of Sarawak and Sabah and instead of criminalising such calls, the wisest political and nation-building response is to engage with these groups to find out what are the causes of their unhappiness. Don’t kill the messenger but miss the message!

Having tasted victory in forcing the Prime Minister to buckle under their pressures, the rightist and extremist elements are piling further pressures to put back the clock of democratisation and national transformation.

A former Court of Appeal judge, Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah wants offenders under the Sedition Act to be punished with a jail sentence of not less than three years and not exceeding 10 years instead of the present penalty of a fine of RM5,000 or a maximum jail sentence of three years or both.

Mohd Noor also wants the definition of sedition to be widened to any acts that caused fear to the Malays.

It is already unbelievable that a former Court of Appeal judge has so little confidence in the discretion and judgement of judges when imposing sentence that he supports the removal of such discretion to be given to judges, but what really boggles the imagination is that he could be so blinkered, biased and sectarian that he could advocate that in a plural nation like Malaysia, sedition includes any acts that caused fears to the Malays.

The Inspector-General of Police meanwhile wants the Sedition Act to be “improved” to make it easier for authorities to prosecute those who violate the law.

It is most shocking that the Prime Minister has failed to address widespread concerns about selective and malicious investigation and prosecution under the Sedition Act against Pakatan Rakyat leaders, intellectuals and activists in the recent “white terror” campaign to create a climate of fear in the country.

It would appear that even before any amendments to “fortify” the Sedition Act, there would be pressures for another dragnet of selective/malicious prosecution against PR leaders, activists and dissent.

Najib would be making a fatal mistake if he thinks that by buckling to the rightist and extremist pressures over the retention of the Sedition Act, he has consolidated his position in UMNO.

The opposite appears to be the case, as illustrated by the blog of Zainuddin Maidin, ex-Minister who is clearly the spokesman of the rightists and extremists in UMNO and UMNO-sponsored NGOs, who warned that “a quiet revolution is under way in Umno” and the applause Najib received was not a show of support, but a release of pent-up emotions and a rejection of his “weak and liberal leadership”.

Zainuddin warned: “If he hadn’t made that announcement, all the Umno members would have buried him, and his future in Umno would have been destroyed”

He added: “Najib’s respite this time, would be his last breath.”

Ominous warning from the rightists and extremists in UMNO and UMNO-sponsored NGOs indeed.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah