Talk about pusing balik. Just reading this is enough to make my stomach pusing after lunch: Najib has declared at the Umno assembly that the Sedition Act would not only be retained but strengthened…
Flash-back to 11 July 2012, in the run-up to GE13:
KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 tonight, in his latest move to regain the momentum for reforms ahead of elections that must be held soon.
He said the 64-year-old law would be replaced with a National Harmony Act.
“With this new Act, we would be better equipped to manage our national fault lines.
“It will also help to strengthen national cohesion by protecting national unity and nurturing religious harmony,” he was quoted as saying by The Star during the Attorney-General Department’s dinner here.
Tonight’s announcement comes as part of the prime minister’s slew of legislative reforms to increase civil liberties initiated during the eve of Malaysia Day last year.
So what has changed?
When Najib announced the repeal of the Sedition Act, he was banking on 1Malaysia to lead the BN to a thumping electoral win at GE 13 in 2013 and cement his place as Umno president.
But with Pakatan capturing 51 per cent of the popular vote and BN reduced to little more than Umno-plus-East Malaysian parties, that attempt to win over the middle ground with the 1Malaysia branding has all but been ditched.
Instead, despite Shahrizat’s attempts to strike a move sober note with a nod to the more inclusive New Politics, Najib’s U-turn at the Umno assembly has shown that he is only interested in playing to the gallery of the ‘Old Politics’ of race and religion.
But that gallery is a shrinking market in the face of a weakening economic outlook. Just this morning my mechanic and his neighbour both lamented that “ekonomi sekarang sudah perlahan”. People are feeling it. The cost of living is rising as well. And the university students are stirring.
Umno is feeling insecure and afraid of losing its grip on power. Hence, Umno leaders are looking to entrench their positions one way or another. And the Sedition Act is a handy instrument.
In the meantime, my friend, the cartoonist Zunar, is expected to be charged with sedition next week. Imagine that.