How far back do we go before being seditious becomes ridiculous?

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TODAY, a Malaysian preacher was charged with sedition for something he wrote in his Facebook account in November 2012. That is about 22 months ago.

How far will the authorities go back to decide what is seditious and what is not?

Would what Tunku Abdul Rahman say about seeking independence or what Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said in the constitutional crisis of 1983 and 1993 be considered seditious under the Sedition Act 1948?

What is the golden standard being used to measure this seditious tendency? Is it something considered seditious in 2014 rather than whatever was said or written in 2012 or 1957?

How far back before being seditious becomes ridiculous?

One must ask the Attorney-General how his colleagues decide to prefer such charges considering he has said there is review for Universiti Malaya's law lecturer, associate professor Dr Azmi Sharom.

And why stop at Azmi? How about the rest of those who have been charged with sedition without even knowing they have tripped on the law? The A-G should review all cases and let the public know which line they should not cross.

Otherwise, the sedition cases are just another way of shutting up opinions or debate which the authorities appear incapable of arguing. The easier option is to use the Sedition Act, rather than engage and counter dissenting views.

Azmi put it succinctly today at Universiti Malaya when he said, "There are those who believe that using the Sedition Act is a sign of strength. Wrong! Using the Sedition Act is a sign of weakness!"

This is 2014. The authorities must now live under the illusion that the Sedition Act can do what the now-repealed Internal Security Act had done in the past –  shut up or put away people it feels are a danger to society.

It is not society that they are a danger to, it is the government of the day. And that is the difference between national security and insecurity.

If Putrajaya is motivated to push Malaysia into the ranks of a developed and high-income nation, it must start with allowing civilised discourse rather than brandishing laws to silence those it cannot argue against.