Concerns over Sedition Act spur move on proposed amendments

Concerns over Sedition Act spur move on proposed amendments
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

KUALA LUMPUR - The Government is expected to make some changes on the proposed amendments to the Sedition Act 1948 today following concerns raised by several quarters, including Barisan Nasional backbenchers.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is expected to make the announcement at the Dewan Rakyat.

The Sedition (Amendments) Bill 2015 was tabled by Dr Ahmad Zahid on Tuesday for first reading but has yet to be debated.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong (pic) said the Home Minister had listened to the feedback from Barisan MPs on the Bill and there would be a few adjustments to the Sedition (Amendment) Bill 2015.

On the planned announcement, Wee, who is also MCA deputy president and Ayer Hitam MP told The Star yesterday: "MCA welcomes any betterment to the law. As long as there is still room to make the law better, it is good."

He added that as long as the Bill had yet to be passed, improvements could still be introduced to, it regardless of the stage of the Bill.

Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club chief Tan Sri Shahrir Samad also said the announcement would take into account the concerns expressed by Barisan lawmakers, especially those from Sabah and Sarawak.

"Some of them (amendments) will be withdrawn. Wait for the minister to announce," said Shahrir.

He explained that among the grouses of concern were the matter of secession.

The Bill seeks to criminalise any person who promotes feelings of ill will, hostility or hatred between persons or groups on the grounds of religion.

It also seeks to make it an offence for any person or group to demand for the secession of any state from Malaysia.

Shahrir said there were backbenchers who were concerned over the amendments touching on religion.

"And there is a question of the Bill being sub judice," he added.

On Tuesday, Opposition MPs said the proposed amendments to Act should not be debated in Parliament as doing so would be subjudice and against Parliamentary Standing Orders.

Gobind Singh Deo (DAP-Puchong) said the debate on the amendments should not be carried out as there was a court case contesting the constitutionality of the Act.

He said the Federal Court had heard submissions on the case and was deciding whether the Sedition Act was constitutional.

Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said (BN-Pengerang) said some MPs were concerned over the possibilities of the proposed amendments leading to "political abuses".

Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin argued for the need to clarify vague sections and to protect individuals from being wrongly prosecuted under the Act.

"For some people, the awareness is not there. That's why I asked the minister, what if some of the kampung people 'like' a statement on Facebook? Are they going to get arrested?" he told reporters outside Parliament yesterday.

MCA lawmaker Senator Chong Sin Woon said deferring the proposed amendments would show willingness by the Government to listen to the voices of MPs and that of civil society.

The MCA Youth chief touched on the proposed amendments to make it an offence for those who talk about secession from the Federation of Malaysia.

"In this spirit of federalism, the Government has to keep the country as one nation not by restricting voices of those who are seeking more power and say in the respective states," he said.

He said action, however, should be taken against those who collaborate with outside influences to spilt the country.

MCA lawmaker Datuk Koh Nai Kwang (BN-Alor Gajah) said postponing the Bill would be akin to what was done to the proposed bills on the amendments on Evidence Act and Criminal Procedure Code yesterday.

"We, as backbenchers, are allowed to voice our views to the minister on how the people feel," said Koh.

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