Malaysia's Sedition Act to be repealed or replaced with new law: Minister

Pakatan Harapan supporters in Johor celebrating after the coalition won the election on May 10, 2018. The Sedition Act is among several laws that PH pledged to reform in its election manifesto.
Pakatan Harapan supporters in Johor celebrating after the coalition won the election on May 10, 2018. The Sedition Act is among several laws that PH pledged to reform in its election manifesto.PHOTO: ST FILE

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Sedition Act will be either repealed or replaced with a new law, or its provisions placed under the Penal Code, Malaysia's government has announced.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Liew Vui Keong said that in any case, defamatory safeguards towards royalty would be maintained.

He said the repeal of the Sedition Act would allow for more freedom of expression in the country.

"We will have a new Act to replace it or alternatively, it will be placed under the Penal Code and will include certain sections that cover defamation towards the royal institution.

"Under the Sedition Act, the definition of sedition is quite narrow. We want to ensure not all statements can be seditious. Certain statements can be allowed some freedom.

"We do not mind if the government is criticised, if it is constructive," he told reporters in a special interview to mark Pakatan Harapan's first anniversary of taking over Putrajaya.

The Sedition Act is among several laws that Pakatan pledged to reform in its election manifesto.

 
 
 
 

The others include the Anti-Fake News Act, Security Offences (Special Measures) Act or Sosma, Prevention of Crime Act and National Security Council Act.

Datuk Liew, who is the de facto law minister, said the government was firm that the Sedition Act would go, and the Cabinet had given its nod.

"I expect the Act to be abolished this year. It should be tabled in Parliament in July or October," he said.

Commenting on the failed bid to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution, which would define Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah as equal partners in the Malaysian federation, Mr Liew agreed that the government would find it tough to amend any law requiring a two-thirds majority from now.

"On the amendment of Article 1(2), the understanding was that we would get the support needed from opposition parties.

"But at the last moment, they had their instructions from their party whips and chose to abstain from voting. So anything can happen. The best guarantee for the government in future constitutional amendments would be to have 148 MPs, or the two-thirds majority.

"Are we going to actively pursue that? I do not know, I leave that to the Prime Minister," said Mr Liew.

In April, the government tabled a Bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution.

However, it failed to get the two-thirds majority required after Gabungan Parti Sarawak, Barisan Nasional and PAS abstained from voting.