KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 27 – The decision by the government to maintain the Sedition Act 1948 is seen as a victory for Malaysians who love peace and harmony. The policy speech by Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the party’s general assembly this year is also seen as a commitment by the party to preserve unity, which is now being threatened by various elements and provocations.
This is a relief for majority of the people, despite attempts by the opposition to get the act to be abolished, claiming that the law violates the people’s right to freedom of speech. A senior lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Associate Professor Datuk Dr Samsul Adabi Mamat, said the current scenario, which was still being influenced by negative thinking that could jeopardize racial harmony, had “forced” the Umno president to emphasise solidarity.
“Solidarity is not something new, as it has brought the country to where it is now, and what is said by the prime minister is a continuation of efforts by past leaders,” he told Bernama on Thursday. Najib, in his speech before the 2,752 delegates at Dewan Merdeka of the Putra World Trade Centre here, emphasised the need for solidarity and mentioned it 10 times in his speech.
The prime minister said Umno, as the main component party of the Barisan Nasional (BN), would continue to ensure the survival of solidarity because it formed an important asset that could ensure peace and harmony in the country. The solidarity nurtured through the social contract by the previous Umno leadership laid the foundation for Malaysia’s journey from before until now and forever, he added.
The assurance of solidarity by Najib is further strengthened with Umno’s determination to maintain and improve the Sedition Act by including two special provisions to strengthen the act. Two special provisions to be included in the act are aimed at preserving the sanctity of Islam and all other religions and to prosecute those who called for the separation of Sabah and Sarawak from Malaysia.
Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is Home Minister, said the decision to include two additional provisions was apt with the current scenario. Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, who is also Defence Minister, said the decision to maintain the Sedition Act reflected the prime minister’s stand to enhance racial unity in the country.
Another Umno vice-president, Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, who is also Rural and Regional Development Minister said the announcement by Najib showed that Umno was a party which always worked towards preserving harmony in the country. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government would have to reconsider the proposal to introduce the National Harmony Act, following the prime minister’s announcement to maintain the Sedition Act.