Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 — The Cabinet has agreed that changes should be made to limit the Sedition Act 1948’s use to only matters involving royalty, minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said today.

Azalina, who is a minister in charge of law and institutional reform, said she had presented today the outcome of a recent dialogue on the “3R” issues — religion, race, and royalty — to the Cabinet.

“The Cabinet has agreed in principle for the Sedition Act 1948 (Act 15) to be reviewed to ensure this law is used only to protect the institution of Rulers from any provocation,” she said in a statement today.

“Other aspects regarding provocation involving religion and race will be scrutinised, including enacting new laws if necessary regarding national harmony and unity by taking into account the institution of the Rulers as the head of the religion of Islam, and international best practices and principles.

“The Prime Minister’s Department’s Legal Affairs Division (BHEUU) will take the appropriate steps to review the Sedition Act 1948 (Act 15) in detail and ensure that proposed amendments that will be proposed are truly intended to protect the institution of Rulers holistically,” she concluded.

The “3R” legal dialogue that Azalina was referring to was held on July 21 at the Asian International Arbitration Centre and was attended by over 50 representatives from the government — including the National Unity Ministry, the Home Ministry, the police, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) — and non-governmental organisations such as legal professional bodies, civil society organisations, academics, and religious organisations.

Previously on July 21, Azalina had said the government intended to review the relevance of several laws — including the Sedition Act 1948 — that can be used to deal with “3R” issues to ensure that they keep up with current developments, as some of these laws were enacted seven decades ago.

Azalina also noted that enforcement agencies are facing challenges in terms of investigation and prosecution, in light of the rapid spread of information through advanced technology, fake or hacked online accounts, anonymity, and artificial intelligence.

Azalina said participants of the 3R legal dialogue and focus group discussion on July 21 were asked to discuss three main options, including whether Malaysia needs to abolish existing laws such as the Sedition Act, and replace it with new laws containing offenses that are more specific and whether new laws that are criminal or quasi-criminal/civil should be introduced.

The two other options that the participants were asked to discuss were whether Malaysia should amend existing laws to ensure that the issue of 3R provocations can be handled holistically, and whether Malaysia should maintain the status quo where no changes to the country’s laws are required and where efforts to tackle 3R provocations could instead be continued through different approaches.

Azalina had at that time said the government would continue to involve stakeholders in considering a holistic policy and legal direction as a guide for the government in tackling 3R issues while also encouraging tolerance, harmony, and unity. She had said the July 21 3R legal dialogue’s outcome would be presented to the Cabinet.

At that time, Azalina said the unity government supported the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed to Malaysians under the Federal Constitution and in line with the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, while also taking into account that such freedom should be used responsibly.

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