Legal News: Nazri: Evidence Act Amendment, Proposed National Harmony Act Relevant

For de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, Section 114A of the Evidence Act and the proposed National Harmony Act are relevant from a legal point of view.

SEVERAL controversial laws have come under the spotlight, among them Section 114A, the amendment to the Evidence Act, and the proposed National Harmony Act, which will replace the Sedition Act 1948.

Gazetted and enforced in July, Section 114A continues to draw debate over the shifting of the burden of proof to Internet users for presumed publication and ownership of offending items posted online.

Nazri: There is always pressure from the public. Nazri: There is always pressure from the public.

In an interview, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz talks about the new laws and amendments.

Excerpts of the interview:

> The Prime Minister announced in July that the Sedition Act is to be repealed and replaced by the National Harmony Act. Is there any indication when it will be tabled?

Following the PM’s announcement, the Attorney-General’s Chambers started the process of promulgating the new National Harmony Act. This means that they will have to get public engagement, draft the law and send it to Cabinet. This process is just starting.

Until it is repealed by Parliament, the Sedition Act is still in force and any action which amounts to an offence under the Act will still be dealt with accordingly.

> Are there key elements that the Cabinet wants included in the Act?

Probably the PM has spoken to the A-G about what he has in mind. The Cabinet will come in when the draft is tabled at the Cabinet meeting.

> The Race Relations Act was first proposed in 2008, dropped in 2009, then brought back in 2011. In April this year, you said there was no need for it. Why the flip-flop?

When we have public engagement, there is always pressure from the public. If the people unanimously don’t want the words “race relations”, then we have to take cognisance of what the public wants.

So if we listen to the public, it doesn’t mean we are flip-flopping. Please don’t blame us when it is actually you who ask us to engage with the public. When we change our stand, then you say we are flip-flopping. When we don’t do that, there is a public outcry and you say we don’t engage. So who is confused here?

> Which aspect of the Race Relations Act did the people not want?

I think it’s the word “race”. We thought “national harmony” sounds better. Some think that unity in the country is so unmanageable that we need a Race Relations Act. Probably that’s the reason. So it will be better to put elements of race relations in the National Harmony Act.

> Will elements of the proposed Race Relations Act be reflected in the National Harmony Act?

When you mention harmony, it’s an inter-racial thing or a religious thing. So, my guess is, yes, there will be some elements of the Race Relations Act in the National Harmony Act.

> Will anti-discrimination policies be included the Act?

I don’t know, I can’t comment.

> What is the Cabinet’s stance?

We are all for anti-discrimination policies.

> How soon can we see this Act?

I can’t tell you because I have not seen it yet. I think it’ll be in the new parliamentary term. For sure this session, no.

> Is the repeal a political promise since it can only be done after the general election?

Yes, because we can only table it if we are in the Government.

On the Evidence Act:

> A lot has been written about Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Gan Ping Sieu and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin being reprimanded because of their opposing views on 114A. Was this the case?

Khairy requested for a meeting but the other two are members of administration so we called them. We were concerned because we wanted to know what they were not happy about and we explained it to them.

The problem with talking to people with no legal background is that after one hour of explaining, they will say “I hope one day it will be taken off.” It’s like they don’t understand. Their main reason was: “Why give bullets to the Opposition?”

Here we are talking about the Evidence Act, which we need. They are looking at it as a political issue, that we might lose support come the elections.

Saifuddin said that I was looking at a different point of view. Certainly. I’m the Law Minister, so I’m looking at it from a legal point of view. He was looking at it from a political point of view. To me, this is a totally different angle.

So what do I do? Do I make the announcement to say that I agree with the public who are confused about this, so withdraw it? I will resign! You cannot withdraw something because the public is confused.

> You justified Section 114A of the Evidence Act, saying it is to curb terrorism and protect national security. How will the amendment do that?

It is to complement the Security Measures (Special Offences) Act and the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code and Penal Code. For this new Act and amendments to be effective, we need 114A, which is the presumption of facts.

In the past, we have lost some cybercrime cases because of our inability to identify the IP addresses and owners of materials. First of all, let me clarify that it is not the presumption of guilt. It is the presumption of fact; 114A is procedural. When people said there was a Bill of guarantee to say that there would be no censorship of the Internet, I agreed. But there is a document stronger than that, and that is the Federal Constitution. It guarantees freedom of speech but that does not allow you to defame people or say anything you like.

Source: The Star

By HARIATI AZIZAN

Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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