Malaysia draws more fire with sedi­tion law changes

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

Malaysia’s gov­ern­ment plans to strengthen its much- crit­i­cized sedi­tion law with longer jail terms and other changes, fresh af­ter en­act­ing an anti- ter­ror­ism law de­nounced by the op­po­si­tion and rights groups as a threat to civil lib­er­ties.

The amend­ment to the Sedi­tion Act, tabled in par­lia­ment on Tues- day, will ex­tend the max­i­mum jail term to 20 years from the cur­rent three years, and al­low au­thor­i­ties to deny a sus­pect bail and seize their travel doc­u­ments.

Ac­cord­ing to the amend­ment, it will no longer be il­le­gal to in­sult the gov­ern­ment, but speech in­cit­ing re­li­gious ha­tred in the Mus­lim­dom­i­nated but mul­ti­faith coun­try will be il­le­gal.

“This is in line with the in­ten­tion of the gov­ern­ment to pro­tect the sanc­tity of re­li­gions pro­fessed by the multi- re­li­gious so­ci­ety in Malaysia. An act of in­sult­ing and ridi­cul­ing any reli­gion may cause dishar­mony and threaten public or­der,” the amend­ment said.

Crit­ics of the gov­ern­ment, which has seen voter sup­port slide, say it is in­creas­ingly fall­ing back on “pro­tect­ing Is­lam” in or­der to curb free speech by pro­gres­sives and fol­low­ers of other faiths in the re­li­giously di­verse op­po­si­tion.

Amid pres­sure for re­form, Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak had promised in 2012 to scrap the Bri­tish colo­nial- era Sedi­tion Act.

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