Give guidelines, group tells A-G

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Centre For A Better Tomorrow (Cenbet) has called on the Attorney-General’s Chambers to provide clear guidelines on what is seditious.

Cenbet co-president Gan Ping Sieu said guidelines on the “dos and dont’s” are needed, following the crackdown by the authorities under the Sedition Act.

He said the authorities should stop investigating and charging individuals under the Sedition Act 1948 for previous alleged offences and start on a clean slate by spelling out the parameters for someone accused of sedition under the legislation.

“There are two main reasons why this should be done. First, we have seen how law enforcement agencies are now opening up old cases that date as far back as three years ago.

“This has created the perception that the government is on a witch-hunt and bowing to pressure from right-wing groups to act against individuals, who are critical of the present administration.

“The prosecutions are selective and have caused gross injustice when laws are not seen to apply equally,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Gan said the second reason was the present act was vague, archaic and obsolete when it came to defining what was seditious.

“This is why we see so much public cynicism when some individuals were hauled up over what is perceived to be the most flimsy of reasons.”

Pending the abolishment of the act, he said Cenbet was proposing to the A-G’s Chambers to stipulate guidelines on the dos and don’ts, with a threshold or standard no less than criminal defamation before a charge was preferred.

Gan said in such circumstances, people could no longer claim ignorance on where to draw the line.

“They can also no longer fall back on the unrestrained ‘freedom of speech’ excuse. Clearly spelt out guidelines could at least fill the gap of lack of clarity of the act while awaiting the government to table the replacement bill.”

Gan, a former MCA vice-president, said the parameters drawn up by the A-G’s Chambers should balance freedom of speech with the need to criminalise hate speech and those with intention to stir harm.

He said Cenbet was committed to the abolition of the Sedition Act, which has outlived its historical relevance. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 13, 2014.