Thursday, 11 July 2013

To repeal or not? Cabinet torn apart over Sedition Act

Conflicting statements and claims by ministers over the government's promise last year to repeat the Sedition Act have now threatened to split prime minister Najib Razak’s cabinet.

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had defended the draconian act as necessary, a stand contradictory to Najib’s July 2012 pledge to have it replaced by National Harmony Act.

"I think the Sedition Act need not be abolished. Otherwise, what is there left?” Zahid said.

Echoing Zahid is none other than former UMNO strongman Dr Mahathir Mohamad, urging Najib not to bow to Pakatan Rakyat’s demand for the act to be abolished.

Mahathir even supported the claim by Health minister Dr S. Subramaniam, who said Najib had only mentioned the abolition of the Sedition Act as an idea.

Subramaniam went a step further calling Najib to again bring his idea to cabinet meeting for discussion.

But Tourism minister Nazri Aziz, who was minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and the de-facto Law minister, rebuffed Zahid and Subramaniam’s claim.

He said abolition of the Act had already been decided last year by the cabinet.

"It's a public commitment made by the prime minister. I don't see why any minister would go against it," Nazri said, while chiding colleagues Subramaniam and Zahid for not remembering the cabinet decision.

“Maybe it’s (because of) so many cabinet meetings,” he suggested.

Harakahdaily's political analyst Li Fook Gao said it would be interesting to see the stand to be taken by deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

“Muhyiddin’s decision on Sedition Act will send a signal to UMNO members whether he is ready to challenge Najib for party presidency at the upcoming assembly,” he said.

-HD

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