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Thread: GE13: Putrajaya misused 3 laws, says Forum Asia

   
   
       
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    GE13: Putrajaya misused 3 laws, says Forum Asia

    Putrajaya misused three laws in GE13, says Forum Asia

    BY MD IZWAN
    JULY 26, 2013
    LATEST UPDATE: JULY 26, 2013 02:49 PM

    T
    he panelists at the Asian Solidarity and Human Rights forum held in Kuala Lumpur today. The Malaysian Insider pic by Nazir Sufari, July 26, 2013.
    Putrajaya misused three laws, the Sedition Act 1948, Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, during the May 5 general election for selective prosecution and punishment, according to regional human rights group Forum Asia.


    The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia) said in its preliminary report that the laws were technical and hard to understand for the purpose of prosecution and punishment.


    "We raised our concerns against these problematic laws which gives the power to the government to carry out selective prosecution and punishment, towards certain individuals.


    "The government's promise to carry out reforms runs contrary to what they are doing," Forum Asia representative Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena told reporters in Kuala Lumpur today.


    The preliminary findings of the forum, found that the government used the three acts for the purpose of pressuring parties that had differing views from them.


    "The government used the laws as a tool to suppress the right to freedom of speech during GE13.


    "The arrests of activists and leaders of opposition parties continued even after allegations of election fraud in the recent polls," said Joses Kuan, another representative of the forum.


    The government's actions were seen as clamping down on the people's right to assemble freely and their right to freedom of speech, which is the right of every citizen, said Seoul National University law professor Kyong Whan Ahn. - July 26 2013.
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    'AG's unfettered powers inconsistent with legal norms'





    The lack of court oversight on the attorney-general’s (AG) decision on whether or not to prosecute a case is inconsistent with “modern legal standards” in the region, an Asian fact-finding mission found.

    According to mission member Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena (right), unlike in Malaysia, other Asian courts have the power to review attorney-generals’ prosecutorial decisions.

    “The attorney-general (in Malaysia) remains beyond all scrutiny, and cannot be reviewed by the courts. This is problematic.

    “The concept of unfettered cannot be accepted in modern legal standards,” said the Sri Lankan senior lawyer.

    She was speaking while presenting the preliminary findings of the Asian Forum for Human Rights Development (Forum-Asia) fact-finding mission to assess freedom of expression and peaceful assembly after the general election.

    She said that the mission, which took place from July 22 to 25, found that there were several instances of what appears to be “selective prosecution”.

    “Why is person A prosecuted for sedition for (promoting) a peaceful protest while person B who is engaging in things... obviously arousing religious hatred not prosecuted?

    “Whose authority is it (to prosecute)? It’s not the police, but the AG, and his role has to be reviewed,” she said.

    Section 3 of Article 145 of the federal constitution states that the attorney-general’s power is “exerciseable at his discretion”.

    Systematic post-election crackdown


    Meanwhile, Forum-Asia East Asia Programme Associate Joses Kuan said that the mission found that since the general election, the government has used “repressive laws... to suppress legitimate dissent in events surrounding” the May 5 polls.

    Kuan (left in photo) said examples of violations to freedom of expression include seizure of publications, unfair media coverage and the use of laws like the Sedition Act and the Peaceful Assembly Act.

    He said that this is “contradictory” to the government’s pledges of reform and measures taken to safeguard human rights, like the appointment of a minister in charge of governance and integrity.

    “It’s a systematic post-election crackdown,” he said.

    He added that Malaysia was chosen for the mission as it had just concluded an election, while other countries in the region are just going into elections now.

    Meanwhile, Pinto-Jayawardena added that the existence of the Sedition Act is also inconsistent with regional standards, with many countries having already done away with this “archaic, colonial” law.

    “We accept that one cannot incite racial hatred, but there are already (provisions) in the Penal Code which applies to this,” she said.

    ‘Laws made in secrecy’

    She said the mission also found that lawmaking in Malaysia is done almost in secrecy, with poor engagement with the public, civil society and key institutions like the Bar Council.

    The mission had met with a range of stakeholders from government officials, political parties, the National Human Rights Commission, the Bar Council, NGOs and those facing charges in relation to their advocacy activities post-election.

    However, it did not manage to meet with the Home Ministry, Attorney-General’s Chambers and Foreign Affairs Ministry but will continue to seek meetings with the authorities before its final report.

    The final report will be used as an advocacy tool in Malaysia’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review in October 2013.

    Also part of the mission is former South Korea National Human Rights Commission chairperson and Seoul National University law professor Kwong-Whan Ahn.
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    ‘Scrutinise the Attorney General’s role’


    K Pragalath
    July 26, 2013

    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'.
    KUALA LUMPUR: A regional NGO has questioned the role of Attorney General (AG) Abdul Gani Patail in allowing selective prosecution against the public.


    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.
    py

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