BN more restrained? Most sedition law abuses during your leadership, lawyer tells Najib

Ida Lim

Lawyer N. Surendran alleged that the Najib administration was 'guilty of the worst abuses of the Sedition Act 1948 in the history of independent Malaysia'. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is “hypocritical” to suggest that his Barisan Nasional (BN) government was more restrained in using the Sedition Act compared to the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH), Lawyers for Liberty adviser N. Surendran said today.

Surendran alleged that the Najib administration was “guilty of the worst abuses of the Sedition Act 1948 in the history of independent Malaysia”.

“In the last Najib government of 2013-2018, more people were arrested, investigated or charged for alleged sedition than in the entire 55 years of post-Merdeka Malaysia prior to that.

“Najib’s administration charged more people for Sedition than the previous administrations of Tunku, Tun Razak, Hussein Onn, Badawi and Mahathir put together!” the lawyer said in a statement today, referring to the prime ministers preceding Najib.

While Najib was prime minister, the Sedition Act morphed from a law that was seldom used to a law that was routinely used for investigations and prosecutions, Surendran said.

“In just 3 years between 2013 and 2016, during Najib’s last administration, there was an all-time record of about 170 sedition cases.

“In 2015 alone, during the peak of Najib’s sedition crackdown, about 91 people were arrested, investigated or charged for sedition. This was about 5 times more than the entire total for the previous 55 years of the law’s existence,” he said in his comment on Najib’s online comments yesterday.

Surendran accused Najib of attempting to mislead the public into thinking he was lenient by selectively highlighting the example of Lim Kit Siang, who was probed for sedition but not charged when BN was in power.

The former Padang Serai MP again referred to the hundreds who faced action under the Sedition Act during the Najib administration, questioning why the latter had not mentioned such cases.

Surendran highlighted that it was also under Najib that the government amended the Sedition Act in 2015 to introduce harsher punishments, including a minimum jail term for sedition offences. The amendments have yet to come into force.

Accusing the Najib administration of using the Sedition Act to “terrorise and silence” the opposition, civil society and the public, Surendran said the “unprecedented sedition crackdown became the darkest period for freedom of expression in the history of our nation”.

“The abuse of the sedition law under Najib was so extreme that it warrants an investigation for abuse of power against Najib, former Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, former IGP Khalid Bakar and all other officials who were complicit in the sedition rampage,” he said.

Surendran called on the PH government to form a royal commission of inquiry under the Commission of Enquiry Act 1950 to investigate and recommend appropriate actions on the “massive abuse” of the Sedition Act under the Najib administration.

When contacted, Surendran told Malay Mail: “If we don’t hold a commission and identify the perpetrators and systemic failures that allowed the crackdown to happen, there’s a danger it can happen again under a future autocratic government. Although Najib bears full responsibility, the system and institutions also failed.”

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