[JURIST] Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak [official website] on Wednesday announced plans to replace the 1948 Sedition Act [text, PDF] with the new National Harmony Act. The prime minister stated [NST report] that the new act will ensure the protection of the right to freedom of speech while balancing national unity and preventing hatred based on different religious views. The sedition act that was in place since colonial times has been constantly criticized for infringing free expression, but some opponents claim that the new law will not improve matters. In response, Razak stated that the new law is more specific in language and nature, regulating only that speech related to sensitive areas having the potential to endanger national solidarity.
Malaysia has taken measures to repeal and replace old colonial laws with new ones. In April, the lower chamber of the Malaysian Parliament [official website, in Malay] passed a law [JURIST report] that will replace the Internal Security Act of 1960 (ISA) [text, PDF; HRW backgrounder] that allows indefinite detention of terror suspects, dissidents and political opponents. A day earlier, the prime minister had pledged to review the ISA after the country’s parliament announced [JURIST reports] that it was considering repealing and replacing the controversial law. The new act, the Security Offenses Act, requires detainees to be released or brought to court within 28 days in custody thereby significantly limiting the time period terror suspects have to serve in custody. Razak originally announced [JURIST report] that the government would repeal the ISA and the Banishment Act of 1959 [text] in September and initiated [JURIST report] the plan in October.