In the midst of appreciating the significance of independence and formation of Malaysia, fellow Malaysians from all walks of life have been shocked by the statement made by the Minister in Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, claiming that Putrajaya never promised to abolish the Sedition Act but only to review it. Such blatant claim is indeed shocking as our Prime Minister had already made his promise two years ago on 11 July 2012, which was a year before the 13th General Election (GE-13) that the Sedition Act would be repealed. Moreover, he even told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) two months after GE-13 that the Sedition Act would be replaced by National Harmony Act.
Now, after witnessing a series of recent unfolded prosecutions of Members of Parliament, State Assemblymen, politicians, activists, and even an academic and a journalist under the outdated Sedition Act 1948, the minister in the PMO has finally “revealed” that in fact our PM never meant that way.
In this light, think-tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU) opines that PM should instead stand out and explain to the people in regarding of the lie that he promised, and what is actually going on in this country.
KPRU would also like to posit if the breach of promise is the result of the demand pressured by the former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad? Is his insistence or coercion altogether comprised the charges against academic and journalist, and also to imprison Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anawar Ibrahim?
Alternatively, is the breach of promise and a series of prosecutions more of a part of PM’s strategy and plot to hamstring and cripple the People’s Coalition, or commonly known as Pakatan Rakyat, in the midst of the hardship they are currently countering and enduring through? Or crucially, is this a mean to eliminate any critical voice from civil society, including of the independent journalists, at the moment when most of the people seemingly have become fatigued on the reform movement?
KPRU argues that it is time to abolish the Sedition Act 1948, which is nothing more than a British colonial legacy after 57 years of independence. Particularly, considering the labyrinthine relations between the ruling regime, the Sedition Act and media, KPRU would like to emphasize that the action taken against the Malaysiakini journalist Susan Loone is completely absurd alongside the progress of human civilization that has been shared and enjoyed by fellow Malaysian.
On one hand, the ruling regime has been grasping on the mainstream media to play their role no more than persuading the people to accept its rule without questioning; on the other hand, the prosecution against an independent journalist is no more than entrenching and exerting its authority to force such independent media and journalists — which are deemed to be harder to tame — to comply with self-censorship. It is the similar problematic means has been wielded to silent the academics whose vibrant opinions might have a great influence on the public opinion.
When we take a closer observation at the action taken and the discourse shaped by the ruling regime together with the cooperation of media in cahoots, it is not difficult to discover that they are attempting to distinguish the actions taken against politicians from non-politicians, so that the reaction of the civil society would also be different and act in accordance to the mindset of “divide and rule”.
Thus, KPRU holds on the views that academic freedom and media freedom can no longer be the main focus and argument to highlight the problems that we are facing today, when such arguments tend to marginalize the group of politicians who are at the same time confronting the oppression from the repressive ruling regime.
As we stand firm in defending the rights and freedom of our respective fields, we should beware not to be trapped into the mindset of “divide and rule”, which would lead to isolating the politicians who are too facing the repressive actions together with the non-politicians.