Malaysian Bar marches against Sedition Act

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KUALA LUMPUR: For the fourth time in its history, the Malaysian Bar rallied for the public interest, this time against the Sedition Act 1948, demanding that Putrajaya repeal the colonial-era law which in recent weeks has been used against opposition politicians and activists.

In a fiery speech at the start of the march yesterday, Bar Council president Christopher Leong said the Act was created to shut people up and Putrajaya is using it just to do that.

“This is an unprecedented abuse against lawyers, students, journalists and civil society. We are here to claim back the democratic public place. As much as you may try, you cannot stop our freedom of expression, our thoughts. We will ask why,” said Leong.

Despite the heat, more than 600 lawyers in suits gathered at Padang Merbok from 9.40am for the “justice and freedom walk against the Sedition Act”.

The Malaysian Bar previously walked in protest against the Peaceful Assembly Act in 2012, against amendments to the Societies Act in 1982 and allegations that judicial appointments were fixed in 2007.

The group began walking towards Parliament at about 11.40am, with lawyers holding placards and banners, chanting “Hidup Hidup Rakyat” (Long live the people) and “Mansuh Mansuh Akta Hasutan” (Abolish the Sedition Act).

About 10 of them went to the Parliament to hand over a memorandum to a representative of the Prime Minister’s Department, calling for the Sedition Act to be abolished.

Leong said the group met with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mah Siew Keong and handed him the memorandum that calls upon Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to repeal the Sedition Act as he had promised in 2012.

In the memorandum, the Malaysian Bar also urged Najib and Putrajaya to commit to and promote the building of a fair, just, harmonious, unified, moderate and progressive Malaysia, and to reject all forms of bigotry, racism and religious extremism.

After the meeting, Leong admitted in a statement that changes would take time and said the Bar Council will continue to play its role towards that end. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 17, 2014.