KUALA LUMPUR Dec 6 – The Malaysian Bar are the latest to join the chorus against the government’s move to lift a moratorium on the use of the Sedition Act, Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act and Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (POTA) and Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA).
In a statement, Bar president George Varughese expressed the legal body’s disappoinment on this new development.
“It is extremely disappointing that the government has backpedalled so quickly, particularly when there are other laws to adequately deal with the situation,” he said referring to the recent riots and other incidents over the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple site in Subang Jaya last week.
“A mere three weeks ago, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had said that a draft relating to the review of the preventive detention laws was at the final stage and that he hoped the review would be tabled at the current or next sitting of Parliament.
“Now, he has made this announcement on the withdrawal of the moratorium. The Malaysian Bar is very troubled at his statement.
“The government’s pledge would ring hollow, were it to resort to the same draconian laws that it had denounced the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government for invoking.”
Varughese added that with this move, the Pakatan Harapan Government is once again reneging on its commitment – made in “Promise 27” of its election manifesto for the 14th General Election – to abolish laws that it had itself described as “oppressive” and “tyrannical”.
AG: Stop obsession with manifesto which has no legal significance
However, as Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and even Attorney-General Tommy Thomas have both argued, the manifesto is not a “Bible” that the new government need hold on to, or that the people need to be obsessed with.
Thomas told a forum held at the Royal Selangor Club in August that the manifesto has no legal significance.
“It has no significance at all, and I am surprised at the double standards shown by Malaysians. I cannot remember any time when Malaysians were concerned about the manifesto.
“But now it has been elevated to the status of a holy book, higher than the Federal Constitution. So I cannot understand the obsession with the manifesto,” Thomas said, adding that the government must be given the full five years to implement any reforms.
Gobind repeating BN government mantra on oppressive laws
The Bar also took aim at Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo, who said that the moratorium “is limited to incidents that threaten national security, public order, and race relations”, calling it ironic as those were the same reasons given by the previous Barisan Nasional government when using these laws against its citizens, including those in the opposition and its critics.
“Such action will invariably give rise to an irresistible inference in the public’s mind, that the government did not make its election promises – which formed the basis for the rakyat’s votes for a change of government during the 14th General Election – in good faith,” Varughese said.
He added that police need to conduct thorough investigations on the incidents which took place last week related to the temple site and prosecute the wrongdoers to the fullest extent.
“However, if there are gaps in laws to effectively deal with security concerns, existing laws can be amended or appropriate new laws enacted, without resorting to the repressive laws that the government had promised to abolish.
The Malaysian Bar calls upon the government to immediately reinstate the moratorium imposed on those laws, and to work to repeal them without delay.”
What more will be backpedalled?
It would not be the first promise that the new PH government has “backpedalled” from its election manifesto, including the promise to abolish tolls, the promise that those with PTPTN loans need to start repayment when their salary reaches RM4,000, and 20% oil royalty to Sabah and Sarawak.
What more could be backpedalled in the future?
What about the move to abolish the death penalty, or even to repeal the National Security Council Act 2016 (NSC)? Or will the Goods and Services Tax (GST) be reintroduced at some future date?
Is there nothing that the new PH government will hold on to as part of its manifesto promises over the next five years?