On 15th September, PM Najib announced a bag of 'goodies' for Malaysians by promising to to repeal the dreaded ISA (Internal Security Act) which allows for detention without trial and also to repeal several other emergency ordinances.
Unfortunately for him, Malaysians are not exactly jumping up in joy. Repealing the ISA is not considered a goodie. It should have been abolished a long time ago. It has long out-lived its purpose which was to contain the communist insurgency in the 40s-60s
The ISA has for long been abused by the government to silence dissent, The infamous Operation Lallang comes to mind. It has even been used to detain people who commit passport offences. It is one of the ugly British legacies that the Malaysian government retains for one out-dated (or ulterior) purpose or another.
Malaysians are also not jumping up for joy because until the Act is actually repealed, not many Malaysians trust the PM. Najib has come to be seen by many as the flip-flop PM.
And to further the people's distrust that Najib is really serious about doing away with oppressive laws, the PM had also indicated that alternative laws might be passed to replace the ISA.
And the latest move by the authorities to charge Pas deputy president, Mahamad Sabu or Mat Sabu as he is fondly called, for his alleged comments about the communists being the real Malaysian freedom fighters in relation to the Bukit Kepong Incident makes Malaysians even more skeptical of Najib's intentions.
Many see Najib's announcement of the intended repeal of a slew of oppressive laws as a desperate attempt by him to salvage his declining popularity.
Mohamad Sabu has been charged under section 499 and punishable under section 500 of the Malaysian Penal Code, another legacy of the British.
The section reads: "Whoever, by word, either spoken or intended to be read or by signs, or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation, concerning any person, intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person."
It goes on to provide several explanations. Explanation 1: "It may amount to defamation to impute anything to a DECEASED person, if the imputation would harm the reputation of that person if living, and is intended to be hurtful to the feelings of his FAMILY or OTHER RELATIVES."
Note; The emphasis on the words DECEASED, FAMILY and OTHER RELATIVES are mine. Now, the Bukit Kepong incident happened some 61 years ago. Communists, communism and communist ideology are, and never have been, a big issue or love of Malaysians. However that the authorities have nevertheless choosen to charge Mat Sabu for his alleged comments on communists in relation to an incident that happened so many years ago is telling.
Section 499 of the Penal code does not provide a time bar as to when such a defamation charge can be brought. So, if you defame someone who has died centuries ago you can be charged for defaming him or his family or his other relatives. Sorry, if a similar law applies in the relevant countries, you can be charged for defaming Hitler, Genghis Khan or Shi Huang Di. Very neat.