US veep expresses concern on Sedition Act

US Vice President Joe Biden says Putrajaya still has a chance to redeem itself on rule of law and human rights.

FMT | December 5, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: The United States, via two tweets from Vice President Joe Biden, has expressed concern that Malaysia intends to continue with the colonial Sedition Act, indeed even strengthening it further, to strip the right to free speech and clamp down on dissent that by implication would imperil the position of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) party.

“Amid growing US-Malaysia ties, Malaysian government’s use of legal system and Sedition Act to stifle the Opposition raises rule of law concerns,” said Biden in a tweet picked up by the media on Friday.

The US Vice President held out some hope when he added that despite many quarters criticizing Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for going back on his promise to repeal the infamous Act, Putrajaya still has a chance to redeem itself on Anwar Ibrahim’s pending sodomy appeal.

“Anwar Ibrahim’s appeal gives Malaysia a vital chance to make things right and promote confidence in its democracy and judiciary,” he said in another posting on Twitter picked up by the media.

Washington reminded Putrajaya in October, in a statement issued by the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, to keep its promise and repeal the Sedition Act.

“The United States remains concerned on the Malaysian government’s use of sedition laws. We welcomed Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s announcement in 2012 of his intention to repeal the Sedition Act and encourage the government to follow through on that commitment,” the statement said.

The US Government further stated that it would continue to monitor the situation in Malaysia on the rule of law and human rights and liaise with Putrajaya on the issues that concern the international community.

Putrajaya subsequently took the position, voiced through the government media, pleading to the US to stay out of the country’s “internal affairs” and said that the issues raised by Washington are for the people to resolve.

Najib announced in June 2012 that the Sedition Act, amended five times since 1948 with the last time being in 1975, would be replaced by the National Harmony Act.

The proposed new Sedition Act would have clauses prohibiting insults to Islam and challenging its position and outlawing any attempt to end Sabah’s and Sarawak’s Federation with the peninsula.