KUALA LUMPUR - Hundreds of people, including lawyers, took to the streets in a peaceful rally to call for the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948, marching over 1km from Padang Merbok to Parliament House here.
Participants of "Walk for Peace and Freedom 2014", organised by the Bar Council, began massing at the Padang Merbok carpark as early as 10.30am yesterday before marching towards and reaching Parliament at 11.40am.
Despite the heat, the lawyers turned out in their dark suits as they walked alongside law students and members of non-governmental organisations.
Also lending his support was Universiti Malaya law lecturer and The Star columnist Dr Azmi Sharom, who has claimed trial to a charge under the Act.
The organisers were seen handing out water to participants while there were medical personnel on standby. Delegates from the foreign legal fraternity, such as the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Law Council of Australia, Lawasia, as well as a member of the Japanese Bar, monitored the protest.
Politicians who showed up included Opposition MPs Gobind Singh Deo, Darell Leiking, N. Surendran, Wong Chen and Ong Kian Ming.
Before the start of the walk, Bar Council members addressed the crowd, with president Christopher Leong calling for more open-mindedness among Malaysians.
"We believe in robust debate, diversity of opinion as well as freedom of speech and expression that will ultimately inculcate and maintain true and enduring peace, harmony, unity and mutual respect among Malaysians," he said, adding that the use of the Act was counter-productive to these values.
"The Act undermines the aspirations of right-thinking and moderate Malaysians. An inclusive approach, as stated by the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak), is the way forward as Malaysia aspires to be of developed status by 2020."
He quoted Perak's Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, who said that open-mindedness enabled the establishment of a nation of diverse states, ethnicities and languages.
Later, after handing over a memorandum calling for the abolition of the Act to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Mah Siew Keong, Leong said: "The Prime Minister has promised to repeal the Sedition Act, and we are in support of this."