By K Pragalath
A regional NGO on a fact-finding mission here claims the Attorney General’s role ‘is not focused’ and ‘the law does not allow for his discretion to be reviewed’.
Posing a question, a senior lawyer from Sri Lanka Kishali Pinto Jayawardena, who is part of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-Asia) asked: “Why is one charged under the Sedition Act for allegedly sensitive remarks while another who threatens to burn the (Malay) Bible is let off without being charged?”
Jayawadena is part of the Forum-Asia delegation who is on a fact-finding mission on the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in relation to the 13th general election.
She said AG Gani Patail’s role should be put under scrutiny.
“Currently the AG’s role is not focused. It is beyond scrutiny. He has absolute discretion and the law here does not allow for his discretion to be reviewed.
“It is an anathema to international practice. In other countries such as Sri Lanka the court can state that the AG acted in bad faith,” said Jayawardena.
She was referring to the recent prosecution of blogger Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee for posting an insensitive remark in regard to the holy Ramadan month. At the same time, others such as Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali had been let off over his claims that Malay Bibles should be burned.
The other two members of the delegation are Korea’s national human rights commissioner and Seoul National University’s law professor, Kyong Whan-Ahn, and Forum Asia’s East Asia programme associate, Joses Kuan.
The trio also identified Malaysian laws that were deemed as repressive because it curbed freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in regards to GE13.
The acts were Sedition Act 1948, Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the Penal Code.
Law turned against people
Jayawardena said that based on the four day mission, she concluded that the law making process was “extremely non-consultative”.
“A law is supposed to be for the good of the people but here it has been turned into an enemy of the people and it is used as a tool to repress freedom.
“We do have significant concerns and there is a serious lack of consultation with the civil society,” she said.
Taking the PAA as an example, she asked, “At what point does a moving assembly becomes a street protest? The lack of clarity causes the police to use arbitrary measures.”
Forum-Asia representative Kuan said that they decided to conduct a four-day fact finding mission due to two reasons.
“There appears to be a crackdown post-elections in Malaysia. Also it is that time in South and Southeast Asian countries to conduct elections,” said Kuan who cited Cambodia as an example.
Cambodia would be holding its elections in several days.
Kyong meanwhile told reporters that they were unable to meet with representatives from the Home Ministry, Foreign Ministry, and the AG’s Chambers.
At this point Kuan added that they would still be open to dialogues with these officials.
The findings would be part of the Malaysian civil society’s report in the Universal Periodic Review on Malaysia that would be tabled in the United Nations in October this year. – FMT