Malaysia's opposition PKR plans protests against Sedition Act

Malaysia's opposition PKR plans protests against Sedition Act
University of Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharon (centre) waves to journalists as his lawyer Gobind Singh (right) looks on at the Sessions Court on Sept 2, 2014, after he was charged with sedition in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian opposition party plans a series of protests to press the government to drop all charges brought under the Sedition Act and abolish the legislation, a lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Fourteen people have been charged since 2010 - including three opposition legislators in the past two weeks and a respected university lecturer on Tuesday - and several others investigated.

Mr Rafizi Ramli, vice-president of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), said the anti-sedition movement was necessary because the government would not repeal the law as promised but instead would use it to silence the opposition. "Keadilan is confident that the Sedition Act will not be repealed by the (ruling) Barisan Nasional," he said in a statement.

Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged two years ago that his Umno, the centrepiece of the Barisan Nasional coalition, would abolish the Sedition Act. The pledge was part of broad promises of liberalisation to shore up sagging voter support.

But the reforms have foundered amid conservative resistance within Umno, and the opposition says a crackdown is under way to thwart its own growing electoral success.

The British colonial government introduced the law in the 1940s to curb criticism of the authorities amid a communist uprising. Convictions bring up to three years in prison.

The act remains in force and its use has accelerated, especially since elections in May 2013 in which the opposition won the majority of the popular vote yet failed to take parliament.

Mr Rafizi said Anwar would travel nationwide to garner public support against the tough law and the party would organise demonstrations, including those with student bodies.

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