Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Freedom of speech does NOT exist in Malaysia

Freedom of speech does NOT exist in Malaysia
17 Mar, 2009

Now, before you get all excited about Gobind Singh Deo’s one-year suspension and about Karpal Singh being charged for sedition today, please read this piece and understand that, in spite of what you may have been led to believe, freedom of speech does NOT exist in Malaysia.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

First, see these two videos of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s speech in Parliament in 1993:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asNTbvlK7Eo

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRMDrtn6898

Okay, now read what Tengku Razaleigh wrote in his Blog (http://razaleigh.com/) about a week after the recent Perak Constitutional Crisis.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah on the Constitutional Crisis of 1993

This is not the first constitutional crisis in which the rights of the Rulers have been touched upon. Today’s crisis in Perak is about the legitimacy of the process by which a new state government has been formed in Perak. It’s not about the status of the Rulers.

In comparison, the Constitutional Crisis of 1993 arose from an ugly confrontation between Umno and the Rulers over a question that had direct and profound implications on their sovereignty and that of the Yang diPertuan Agong. For good reason, the Head of State in most countries may not be prosecuted in an ordinary court of law. In 1993, the government campaigned to remove this immunity through amendments to the Constitution.

I opposed these amendments.

In the event, the Rulers and Parliament were railroaded by the government of the day and the amendments duly passed. These are the very same amendments, which, today, make it legal for a Ruler to be prosecuted. Mr Karpal Singh, though I disagree with him, was acting well within his rights that an Umno-led government enacted in 1993 when he earlier proposed to sue DYMM the Sultan of Perak.

Let’s reflect on this irony. Does Umno serve the Rulers more genuinely by upholding and protecting the Constitution, which guarantees their status, or by histrionic displays tuned for the coming Umno elections?

This bears upon the question of the kind of leaders, and the kind of party, we want. Do we want to be led by those who can understand and address the foundational issues facing our society today, and shall we have leaders capable of forging “mutual consent by debate and discussion, inquiries and elections”, or shall we again be landed with those whose main talent is to strike poses that people outside a small, insecure circle in Umno, and particularly Malaysia’s internet generation, find ridiculous?

Was greater harm done to the sovereignty of the Rulers in 1993 through Parliament or a week ago on the streets of Perak?

And is today’s Umno, with its inconsistent adherence to the rule of law, its inconstant respect for the key institutions of our country, a credible or effective defender of the Rulers and of the laws upholding this institution?

Or do we actually harm what we claim to protect?

Above is a video recording in two parts of the speech I made in Parliament in 1993 opposing the amendments to the Constitution.

I stand by my argument.


Article 10 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia

(1)Subject to Clauses (2), (3) and (4) -
(a) every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression;
(b) all citizens have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms;
(c) all citizens have the right to form associations.

(2) Parliament may by law impose -
(a) on the rights conferred by paragraph (a) of Clause (1), such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or of any Legislative Assembly or to provide against contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to any offence;
(b) on the right conferred by paragraph (b) of Clause (1), such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof, or public order;
(c) on the right conferred by paragraph (c) of Clause (1), such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof, public order or morality.

(3) Restrictions on the right to form associations conferred by paragraph (c) of Clause (1) may also be imposed by any law relating to labour or education.

(4) In imposing restrictions in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof or public order under Clause (2) (a), Parliament may pass law prohibiting the questioning of any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of Part III, article 152, 153 or 181 otherwise than in relation to the implementation thereof as may be specified in such law.


Article 10[1][a] of the Federal Constitution provides that every Malaysian citizen shall have the right of free speech and expression. Taken in isolation, it appears to be a guarantee of that right. Sadly, as we all know, the guarantee is not absolute. Starting with Article 10[2][a] and [4] of the Federal Constitution, we are immediately reminded that any such guarantee is, in fact, illusory. Furthermore, restrictions to free speech are enshrined in legislation, such as the Sedition Act 1948, Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984 and the Internal Security Act 1960.

The 1983 Constitutional Crisis involving the Rulers and the 1993 constitutional amendments to, inter alia, remove the personal immunity of the Rulers clearly demonstrates that a new ethos has evolved during the Mahathir Administration that permits the discussion of matters that involve the Rulers.

Chin Thye Choo


The issue is simple. Article 10 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia guarantees all citizens the right to freedom of speech, assembly and association. However, this same Article 10 allows the government to take away that right when deemed necessary. In short, you do not have automatic freedom of speech, assembly and association. The government decides when you can and cannot have it.

If you were to note what Tengku Razaleigh said in his 1993 speech in Parliament (in the videos above), there are certain things that can’t be questioned. These are issues related to the Rulers, Malay rights and privileges, the National Language, and Islam. Even two-thirds of Parliament can’t change this. The only people who can change this would be the Rulers’ Conference. Even then it must be a unanimous decision by the Rulers’ Conference. A simple majority will not be sufficient. Just one dissenting voice from one of the Rulers is good enough to block any move to make these changes.

It therefore becomes unlawful for anyone to challenge the position of the Rulers or the position of Islam and the National Language or to challenge Malay rights and privileges.

Nevertheless, in 1993, ten years after the First Constitutional Crisis, Parliament removed the immunity of the Rulers. This matter was heavily debated at that time and was opposed by Tengku Razaleigh. However, Umno, at the behest of the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, wanted the Rulers’ wings clipped. So Parliament passed the law that now subject the Rulers to prosecution and court action, which prior to 1993 was not possible.

Yes, Umno removed the Rulers’ immunity. And, as Tengku Razaleigh said, it was done after an orgy of Ruler-bashing (pesta mencaci raja-raja, as he put it). The mainstream media went to town in revealing the excesses, transgressions and misconduct of the Rulers to the extent that even the international media picked up the issue, which made a mockery of Malaysia’s Rulers.

The Rulers were run into the ground and driven through the mud. They were defiled and insulted. If an opinion poll had been conducted at that time, probably 90% of Malaysians, across the board, would have opted for the abolishment of the Monarchy and for Malaysia to be transformed into a republic.

As Tengku Razaleigh said, it was Umno who had harmed the Monarchy beyond repair. The Monarchy was no longer perceived as the noble institution as it once was. It was now viewed as a joke and something that Malaysia could do without.

Ghafar Baba, the then Deputy Prime Minister, said there is nothing wrong in criticising the Rulers. In fact, the Rulers should be criticised considering that many of them had misbehaved. What can’t be argued is whether the Monarchy should be abolished and the country turned into a republic. That would be seditious, said Ghafar. Everything else is fair game.

A nationwide campaign was launched to bring the Rulers to their knees. The mainstream media ran expose after expose about the excesses, transgressions and misconduct of the Rulers. By the end of it all, very few Malaysians had respect for the Monarchy and many openly said that it is time for the Monarchy to go.

State Assemblies debated the issue of the ‘corrupt’ Rulers and how the Rulers were beneficiaries to state land, timber concessions, and government contracts. ‘Tengku’ Wong was exposed as the ‘Ali Baba’ front man for the Sultan of Pahang. ‘Tengku’ Yong was exposed as the same for the late Sultan of Terengganu. The mainstream media ran photographs of the lavish palaces in Penang owned by the Sultans of Selangor and Kedah (which was all bullshit, of course, because the Sultans did not own these properties). Exposes of pig farms, gambling debts, lavish lifestyles, and whatnot, were done, all linked to the Rulers of the various states.

The government impounded the Sultan of Kelantan’s Lamborghini on allegations he had refused to pay the import duty on the car -- when in actual fact he was exempted from paying tax. But even when it was later proven he never avoided paying the import duty, the damage was still done. Malaysians were aghast that the Sultans were each buying dozens of multi-million Ringgit sports cars and did not have to pay any tax like the rest of the rakyat.

Heck, after seeing what the mainstream media revealed, even I became ashamed to admit I am from the Royal Family. Umno had totally and absolutely demolished the Rulers. Even Malays were openly condemning the Rulers.

Yes, when it suits Umno, there is absolute and total freedom to attack the Rulers, run them into the ground, and drive them through the mud. They even change the law in Parliament to remove the immunity of the Rulers so that they not only can be attacked but can also be dragged to court as well. But when they want to silence the opposition, they declare that criticising the Rulers is a crime.

I was informed they are considering charges of treason against me for that open letter to Nizar, which was posted in Malaysia Today. The Al Maunah group was also charged for treason. If I am found guilty, the sentence for treason is death by hanging -- like what happened to the Al Maunah people who were hanged in the Sungai Buloh Prison in August 2006.

Yes, that’s right. They can’t get me under the Internal Security Act or the Sedition Act or for criminal defamation. So now they want to hang me for treason for writing an open letter to Nizar asking him to defy the Sultan even if it triggers a Constitutional Crisis in Perak. However, history has shown that Umno did more than what I could ever do to the institution of the Monarchy -- and we have this on record.

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