Najib’s Sedition Act U-turn was to court instant popularity at UMNO General Assembly and had nothing to do with any professional security assessment

The United States Ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Y. Yun said the United States is “puzzled” with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s decision to backtrack and retain the Sedition Act.

The answer is very simple – Najib’s U-turn on the Sedition Act was to court instant popularity at the UMNO General Assembly and had nothing to do with any professional security assessment of the country’s laws.

This was why the former Information Minister, Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin, blogged a day after Najib’s U-turn on the Sedition Act in his presidential speech at the UMNO General Assembly on Nov. 27:

“If Datuk Seri Najib is a smart politician, he would be able to understand that the thunderous applause of the delegates, who welcomed his announcement to maintain the Sedition Act, was actually Umno’s rejection of his leadership that is liberal and weak.

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

Zainuddin seemed to be sounding a note of regret that Najib pre-empted the “burial” which UMNO rightists and extremists were preparing for the Prime Minister at the UMNO General Assembly.

At the monthly assembly at the Prime Minister’s Department in Dataran Perdana, Putrajaya yesterday, Najib reiterated that the Sedition Act 1948 was retained not to obstruct democracy or oppress the opposition but to ensure that there was no conflict between the various races and religions in the country.

He said the decision was made because there were still those who were irresponsible, did not practise democracy, did not respect the various races and religions to the extent of causing tension in society.

The Prime Minister is suffering from a very bad case of credibility deficit complex, to the extent that he did not expect his speeches to be believed any more – as there must be very few even among the huge staff in the Prime Minister’s Department who really buy his reasons for the retention of the Sedition Act.

About not obstructing democracy or oppressing the opposition, can Najib cite how many UMNO/BN leaders, Members of Parliament and State Assembly members have been hauled to the courts and charged with sedition, when everybody knows that the tensions caused by the rhetoric and politics of hate, bigotry and extremism emanate from UMNO/BN side or their out-sourced NGOs, and not from the Pakatan Rakyat?

But it is the Pakatan Rakyat leaders, MPs and SAs who are victimised in the spate of malicious and selective investigations and prosecutions under the Sedition Act on matters that have nothing to do with inciting inter-racial or inter-religious hatred, conflict and tension.

Anwar Ibrahim and I have been investigated by the police under the Sedition Act and it is a probably a matter of time before we are hauled to court and charged under the Sedition Act. Is this to promote democracy and being fair to the opposition?

The Prime Minister and his deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, are misleading Malaysians to fortify their case for Najib’s U-turn on the Sedition Act, even though at the expense of creating confusion among UMNO/BN Ministers and leaders.

A case in point is Muhyiddin’s announcement in Bintulu over the weekend that the government had “conducted a thorough analysis on how the act (Sedition Act) was implemented over the past 57 years before deciding to retain it” – which surprised other UMNO and all MCA, Gerakan, MIC and non-UMNO BN Ministers as they knew nothing about it beforehand!

Was the “thorough analysis” of the Sedition Act done so secretively that only the PM and the DPM knew about it or was it just a “phantom” analysis that existed only in Muhyiddin’s imagination?

If there is such a “thorough analysis” of the Sedition Act, then I challenge Najib and Muhyiddin to make it public.

More than three months ago, the Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail had told the nation that he was conducting a review of the sedition charges against intellectuals and activists like law lecturer Dr. Aziz Sharom. What has happened to this review?

An UMNO MP today asked “why fear Sedition Act if you’re innocent?” while UMNO/BN Senators said the Sedition Act 1948 is still required to curb threats and actions of extremists.

The answer to both are simple and straightforward – the Sedition Act is a draconian and repressive law, especially as it is abused in Malaysia where the real extremists are allowed to go scotfree while the moderates are charged for sedition; where the law is used not based on the activities or offenses but based on the political inclination of the accused.

A good case in point is the former Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Kedah Wanita UMNO delegate, Datuk Dr. Mashitah Ibrahim who tried to incite racial and religious conflict, hatred and tensions with the completely baseless and false allegation that the Chinese community in Kedah had burnt the Quran page by page at a prayer ritual.

Police recorded a statement from Mashitah on Sunday, 12 days after she had made that inflammatory and irresponsible allegation and 10 days after two DAP MPs, Teo Nie Ching (Kulai) and Kasthuri Patto (Batu Kawan), my political secretary Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud and DAP activist Syefura Othman had lodged a police report against Mashitah for her hate speech?

Why did the police treat with Mashitan with kid-gloves when Pakatan Rakyat leaders would have ended up in the lock-up immediately if they had made the same type of reckless incendiary hate speech like that of Mashitah?

Was the police unable to get evidence of Mashitah’s inflammatory hate speech making false allegation that the Chinese community in Kedah had burnt the Quran page by page at a prayer ritual – when the video of Mashitah’s speech had been on You Tube all this time?

Furthermore, how is Najib to explain for the police investigation of PKR Taman Medan Assemblywoman in Selangor, Taniza Talha under the Sedition Act for an article criticising budget allocations to the prime minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor’s Permata project?

The so-called offending article, ‘Subsidi dipotong demi Permata Rosmah RM711 juta’ (Subsidy cut over RM711 million for Rosmah’s Permata), in which Haniza questioned the government allocation to the preschool programme, pointing out the government already has programmes for preschoolers.

This is a very clear-cut case of the Sedition Act becoming an oppressive instrument to suppress democracy and stifle the opposition, where the Sedition Act is used not based on the activities or offences, but the person involved as to whether from Pakatan Rakyat or not; and whether he or she had criticised an UMNO personality who cannot be questioned or criticised – like Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah