In its amendments to the Sedition Act 1948 tabled today, Putrajaya plans to impose harsher penalties on those convicted for crimes under the law and also allow for government criticism to create transparent and accountable administration. Here’s a simple guide to the Sedition (Amendments) Bill 2015.
1. Section 4 (1a) – Stricter Jail Sentences
According to Malay Mail, a copy of the Sedition (Amendments) Bill 2015, the newly-introduced Section 4(1a) stipulates that those who cause bodily harm as well as property damage for their sedition crimes will now face jail terms between five and 20 years.
Those convicted of general sedition crimes, however, could be imprisoned for no less than three years and no more than seven years, a marked increase in prison time from before.
The colonial era law currently imposes a maximum three-year jail term or maximum RM5,000 fine on first time offenders, and a maximum five-year jail term for repeat offenders.
2. Section 5a – Bail And Travel Denied
Another new clause in the Bill — Section 5a — seeks to deny bail options to offenders who cause bodily harm and property damage.
According to the Bill, Section 5a stipulates that if there is a certificate in writing by the Public Prosecutor stating that it is not in the interest of the public to grant bail to those charged with crimes under Section 4(1a), “the person shall not be released on bail”. The bill explains:
The amendments will also grant courts the power to prevent those charged from leaving the country by surrendering his travel documents.
3. Section 6 – Seditious Postings
Section 6 will also be amended to prevent charges against individuals who can prove that any allegedly seditious publication was published without his authority, consent and knowledge, or if he is unaware that it is seditious.
4. Section 10 – Court Can Order Removal Of Seditious Online Publications
Furthermore, a new Section 10 will grant authority to the court to order offenders to remove their online publications if they are deemed seditious.
If the offender cannot be identified, the new Section 10a will empower the court to direct an officer authorised under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to block access to offending online publications.
Putrajaya previously pledged to repeal the Sedition Act 1948 that critics say is used to stifle political opposition and dissent, but later announced in November last year that it will be retained and expanded instead.
5. Insulting Or Mocking Any Religion Is Seditious
A subclause was proposed to make it an offence for any person to “promote any feelings of ill will, hostility or hatred between persons or groups of person on the ground of religion”. The Seidition (Amendment) Act 2015 Bill stated that:
The Bill also made it clear that the religion of Islam that is protected under the law strictly refers to “hukum syarak”, or Islamic teachings which are “codified under any written law”, and does not include “deviant teachings”.
6. However, Criticising The Government Is No Longer Seditious
However, Putrajaya is also amending the colonial-era law to allow for government criticism in a bid to “create transparent and accountable administration” amid widespread opprobrium over its use on political dissenters.
Another subclause will make it no longer an offence to bring “into hatred and contempt or exciting disaffection against the Government”. The bill stated that:
The amendment will also decriminalise criticism of the administration of justice, deleting Section 3(1)(c) of the Act.
7. Demands For Secession For Any Malaysian States Is Still Seditious
In addition, the bill will amend Section 3(1)(b) to “make clear” that any calls to demand secession for any States from Malaysia is seditious, although it admits that such demand is already seditious under the current definition.
Editor’s note: We at Greater Malaysia think that this is a very tricky subject. We believe that if implemented the right way and for the right reasons, there is no reason for this Act to court as much controversy as it does right now.
Alas, we think that Malaysians should also prove to our leaders that we as a society are beyond the existence of Sedition Act. When we criticise, we do it in a positive and constructive manner. If we have to comment on a sensitive issue, we should do it with poise rather then bluntly shouting about.
We hope to live a greater Malaysia where such archaic laws will truly be redundant.
Under Revised Sedition Act, Insulting Religion An Offence, But Not Criticising Government (Malay Mail)