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Malaysia: Suhakam concerned by arrest of MPs

Graphic: Suhakam Chairperson Tan Sri Hasmy Agam

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia says its regrets the decision of the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) to invoke the Sedition Act 1948.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) regrets the decision of the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) to "detract from the principle of Parliamentary privilege" by invoking the Sedition Act 1948 against Members of Parliament in the course of parliamentary debates.

The Commission pointed out that it had repeatedly expressed its concern over the invocation of the Sedition Act by PDRM, including recently in 2014 on a state assembly person for words spoken in the State Assembly.

"The Commission registers its serious concern at the latest arrest of a Member of Parliament under the Sedition Act and calls on the authorities to respect and uphold the principle of Parliamentary and State Assembly privilege accorded to our elected representatives," said Suhakam Chairperson Hasmy Agam in a statement.

He was commenting on the arrest and overnight detention of Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and Rasah MP Teo Kok Seong.

"Crucial to parliamentary democracy is the assurance that Members of Parliament are privileged with the authority to express their views and opinions in Parliament without fear or favour as representatives of the people," said Hasmy.

The Commission, he added, emphasises that the freedom of speech and expression in Parliament shall not be impeached or become the basis of criminal proceedings.

"It is therefore essential that Members of Parliament are guaranteed freedom from criminal prosecution, civil suits or superfluous disciplinary action," Hasmy said.

The Commission said it recognizes that there are exceptions to the privileges and immunities enjoyed by Parliamentarians as contained in Articles 63(4) and 72(4) of the Federal Constitution.

However, it reiterated its position that "the authorities must ensure proportionality of punishment against Parliamentarians, with due regard to existing measures as provided for under the Standing Orders of Parliament and Assembly".

The fundamental right of freedom of speech, stressed Hasmy, shall be upheld in Parliament at all times.

The Commission also advised that Parliamentary immunity is not an individual privilege granted to Members of Parliament for their personal advantage, "but is instead a privilege for the benefit and interests of all citizens, as Parliament has a central role to play in the protection of the basic rights of all Malaysians".

Date: 19 March 2015

Source: Free Malaysia Today / Human Rights Commission of Malaysia

Image credits

  1. Suhakam Chairperson Tan Sri Hasmy Agam - Human Rights Commission of Malaysia