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Government has no power to impose moratorium on laws

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Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR — December 4, 2018: An experienced lawyer who also served in the legal and judicial service early on in his career has questioned the government’s decision to place a moratorium on some laws, arguing that it has no such prerogative or power.

Tan Sri Aziz Abdul Rahman, who was involved in drafting amendments to the federal Constitution and the Sedition Act following the May 13 riots in 1969, pointed out that there are no laws in the country that endow the government with such power.

“The government is exercising a power that isn’t based on our laws. The moratorium is illegal in the first place. If they want to suspend the law then it must be done through Parliament,” commented Aziz.

In a legal context, a moratorium basically refers to the temporary suspension of a law to allow a legal challenge against it.

Prior to the general elections last May, the Pakatan Harapan coalition had pledged to abolish laws such as the Sedition Act which it described as draconian.

Last week Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the Cabinet had agreed to lift the moratorium on the Sedition Act, Prevention of Crime Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act and Security Offences Special Measures Act to allow the police to investigate last week’s rioting at and near the USJ 25 Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.

While some have cried foul over Pakatan’s about-turn, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo yesterday stated that the lifting of the moratoriums was conditional and remarked that it will be business as usual once the temple investigation is completed.

In response to this, Aziz simply described it as ridiculous.

“They did not quote which laws allow them to impose the moratorium. Now they want to suspend and resume laws according to their whims…. you cannot do that! That’s not how laws work. If the law is there, it must be enforced,” said Aziz.

The moratorium on the Sedition Act was made at a Cabinet meeting on October 10 but there have been no press reports about the other laws being suspended.

In an interview last week, Aziz explained that unlike other legislation, any motion seeking to repeal the Sedition Act must first obtain the Rulers’ consent as stated in two post-May 13 amendments to the federal Constitution.

The prerequisites were set because the Sedition Act covers four sensitive issues which are not explicitly covered by other criminal laws.

The four are the sovereignty of the Malay rulers, special rights of the Malays/Bumiputera, the national language and citizenship for non-Malays.

“These are issues that could trigger another May 13 if left unregulated,” said Aziz.

Four years ago, former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak attempted to repeal the Sedition Act but failed when the Rulers did not consent to it after summoning Aziz and former national police chief Tun Haniff Omar to listen to their opinions.

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Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]