With the passing of Bersih 5.0 rally, SOSMA has come under the spotlight again as Maria Chin was recently freed after her arrest for “the attempt to commit activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy“. But if you still remember, it wasn’t that long ago that a lot of people were being arrested for sedition left, right, and center.
We’ve mentioned about the rising number of charges in this article before, and according to PDRM, the numbers are still growing, with at least 91 cases in 2015 alone according to Amnesty International. So, with a list of sedition charges sent to us by Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen, and good ol’ fashioned research, we decided to find out once and for all, which Malaysians are currently the most seditious (seditiousest?).
Since it would probably take a small book to write about all the people that were CHARGED for sedition, we decided to only look at those with a total of TWO OR MORE charges overtime, so you might not see familiar names like Fahmi Reza, Alvin Tan, Azmi Sharom and even Eric Paulsen himself. We also used some bonus points to distinguish them. Here are the “most seditious” Malaysians, from least number to most (drum roll please):
8. N. Surendran, PKR vice president / MP / Lawyer – 2 charges
Crimes: Accusing the PM of political conspiracy and releasing a seditious press statement
Bonus Points: Charged for repeating a statement Anwar Ibrahim said
Current Status: Pending trial for both
Surendran was first charged with sedition for releasing a press statement on Anwar’s court case, criticising the judgement handed to Anwar. In fact, he was actually representing Anwar in the case. He and his party claims this is the first time someone has been charged for just repeating a statement, and insists that people shouldn’t be charged for that. Surendran is looking to get the charge dropped.
“We believe it is unprecedented for legal counsel to be charged for sedition merely for repeating his client’s legal defence,” – Anwar’s legal team in a joint statement, quoted by The Malay Mail Online
Later in the same month, he was charged a second time for a YouTube comment, in which he purported Prime Minister Najib Razak for a political conspiracy against Anwar Ibrahim. He claimed trial for this charge this year.
7. Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman, Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) President – 2 charges
Crime: Labeling the Chinese as “intruders”
Bonus Points: Only person to have 2 charges relating to racism
Current Status: 1 dropped, 1 guilty
Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman stands out because he is the only person we could find whose sedition charges relate to racism. Both charges were on account of him labeling Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese as “intruders brought in by British colonialists to oppress the Malays“, one for uttering the statement and the other for publishing an article titled “The coming of the Chinese with the British colonialists a form of intrusion” on ismaweb.net (the article has since been taken down).
He has been found guilty recently for publishing the seditious article, and was ordered to pay a RM 2,000 fine, or face up to 2 years in jail for his conviction. His other charge however, has been acquitted on 16th May 2016.
“Alhamudillah, we accept it. I accept it,” – Adullah Zaik Abd Rahman on his sentencing.
6. R.S.N Rayer, Penang State Assemblyman & Lawyer – 2 charges
Crime: Saying “Celaka-celaka UMNO”, twice
Bonus Points: Getting away with insulting a whole political party
Current status: Both charges cleared
The DAP assemblyman was charged for uttering a remark that “might lead to public disorder” on 2 seperate occasions. Once in a Penang state assembly, and as if he wasn’t sure if people heard him, he said it again during a speech in a park. In response to his words, Penang state UMNO youth members not only staged a protest at the assembly building, but even stormed into the building to demand an apology.
“Celaka-celaka ini, celaka-celaka UMNO ini kurang ajar, biadap…” – R.S.N Rayer, in a Penang State Assembly
Interestingly, he was recently cleared and acquitted of the charge because the judge ruled that words directed towards a political party are actually only directed at specific people. We really do learn something new everyday…
“A statement directed against a political party cannot be regarded as words used against a certain community or group of people.” – Judge Ibrhim Osman, in his ruling of the case.
5. Chua Tian Chang (a.k.a Tian Chua), MP & Vice president of PKR – 2 charges
Crimes: Accusing the gomen of conspiracy and making seditious comments at a rally
Bonus Points: Charged for… biting a policeman (ಠ_ಠ)
Current status: 1 dropped, 1 guilty
Tian Chua might possibly be the most seditiousest politician. In March 14th 2013, Tian Chua was charged for accusing the gomen for plotting the Lahd Datu standoff, and then was charged again on 29th May 2013 for uttering seditious words at a May 13 forum. He was acquitted for the first charge, but was recently convicted for the second one, and he was sentenced to 3 months in prison and pay RM 1800 fine.
Tian Chua has had a long history of being arrested and detained. We’ll let this picture speak for itself.
Oh, and this…
and this, too.
Years ago he was detained under ISA for protesting under the Reformasi movement and locked up for 2 years, and was even compensated with RM2.78mil for that! He was also arrested for a series of illegal gatherings, and he was charged for gigiting a policeman during one arrest at the Parliament house.
4. Ali Abd Jalil, Social Activist – 3 charges
Crime: Insulting Johor and Selangor royalty
Bonus Points: Flew away to another country to avoid charges
Current Status: Political asylum in Sweden
So how did Ali here rake up more sedition charges than veteran politicians? He was charged with 3 counts of sedition for insulting the monarch on Facebook, 2 against the Sultan of Selangor, and 1 against the Sultan of Johor.
After being released from his, like, 4th arrest, Ali flew out of Malaysia to seek political asylum in Sweden (presumably while listening to “Leaving on a Jetplane“), where he was eventually granted PR status (presumably went home and listened to “Forget you” for about 60 times after that). He claimed that he has been tortured during his detention, and also that he left for fear of his safety.
3. Khalid Mohd Ismath, Activist & Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) member – 3 charges
Crime: Insulting Johor royalty
Bonus Points: 11 other charges under Communications and Multimedia Act 1993
Current Status: Pending trial for 3
Similar to Ali Abd Jalil, Khalid Mohd Ismath was charged for seditious Facebook posts insulting the Johor royalty. With the total of 14 total charges under the Sedition and the Communications and Multimedia Act, he’d impress even the Energizer rabbit.
But unlike Ali Abd Jalil, Khalid was denied bail at first, because the authorities are concerned that he might pull an Ali Abd Jalil on them, but he was later released on interim bail. Recently, his disappearance caused a bit of stir as he even left a Facebook post beforehand. But this fellow PSM member seems to be reassuring everyone that he is currently safe.
2. Hassan Karim, PKR Johor Chief & Lawyer – 4 charges
Crimes: Criticising the Selangor Sultan and making seditious remarks at a rally
Bonus Points: 3 additional charges under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1993
Current Status: Pending trial for 3, 1 dropped
Hassan Karim first 3 charges were for three seditious tweets he posted in 2014 and 2015, which criticised the Selangor Sultan over the Menteri Besar crisis. He is still pending trial for these charges.
His fourth charge was for remarks he made during a rally regarding Anwar Ibrahim’s verdict in Pasir Gudang, Johor, which he claimed trial. But then the charge for the remark was withdrawn earlier this year, because of this:
“In the (reply) letter, the public prosecutor said that after studying and considering the representation and the investigation papers, the public prosecutor agreed to drop the charge,” – Hassan Karim when asked about why the charge was dropped.
Yea… they just decided NOT to charge him anymore, and he was granted a “discharge not amounting to acquittal“. Translation: Not charged now, but not completely innocent also, because can become charged again later for the same case.
1. Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque (a.k.a Zunar), Cartoonist – 10 charges
Crime: Twitter comments about Anwar Ibrahim’s case, publishing comics with “sensitive” issues
Bonus Points: Several book bans, publishers raids
Current Status: Pending trial for 9, 1 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Zunar (our article on Zunar here) probably needs no introductions. The cartoonist that recently won an international award, was even more recently arrested for sedition during an art exhibition at Penang’s Komtar building. Zunar was already facing NINE SEDITION charges before this arrest, which is already a new record in Malaysian history, and that isn’t including another sedition charge in 2010, just 3 hours prior to the launching for “Cartoon-O-Phobia”, though we’re not sure what happened to that charge.
So u think Zunar would be charged mostly for all those seditious cartoons that he produced over decades of his life? NOT REALLY. The 9 sedition charges against him were actually for twitter comments he made regarding Anwar Ibrahim’s trial, where he criticised our justice system. In 2010 he was arrested for sedition because his book contained “sensitive” issues. On top of that, investigations on another one of his cartoon books and his recent arrest were both made on the grounds of sedition, so his charge count might still increase.
The British gave us Sedition Act to fight communist, but do we still need it now?
With so many people being charged, we could not include these cases in the list:
Malaysian Armed Forces Veterans Association chief Mohd Ali Baharom (a.k.a Ali Tinju), was arrested and charged with inciting a riot by uttering racist remarks during the Low Yat riot. His case was later dropped. Also in relation to the riot, prominent blogger Papagomo was also arrested and investigated for spreading false information that worsen racial tensions.
But the question is, do we STILL need a Sedition Act in the first place? The common argument used is that the sedition act was introduced by the British before Malaysia was even an independent country in order to combat the communist threat. But with the country no longer under threat of communists, is it time to finally lay the law to rest? After all, even the British have abolished their own Sedition Act.
But then again there’s also the idea that freedom of speech is not absolute, meaning that there has to be a line to be drawn between your right to say something versus your right to say it responsibly.
Even so, as a democracy, instead of a culture of fearing of speaking out, freedom of speech should be a natural right for its people, that’s why its guaranteed in the constitution in the first place, and the founding father of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, seems to understand that well:
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Benjamin Franklin.