By Neville Spykerman
KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 — Constitutional and legal experts have disagreed with Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz’s view that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Sept 16 government takeover plans two years ago was seditious.
The minister in the prime minister’s department charged the opposition leader’s move was unlawful as Anwar had allegedly claimed he had both the King and army’s support in a bid to trigger defections from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Several police reports have been lodged against Anwar in recent days over the allegations.
Constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas noted that Anwar intentions were not illegal because changing the government was not limited to having general elections nor had he plotted in secret because the Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) Sept 16 bid was declared publicly.
“So what’s the problem, it was debated in the press for at least six months and it’s impossible for the King not to know,” Thomas told The Malaysian Insider.
The veteran lawyer reiterated the whole world knew Anwar’s objective and his claims that he had enough or getting enough MPs to cross over so a motion of no confidence could be tabled in Parliament.
Thomas said on hindsight it was a foolish move by Anwar but not illegal because that’s exactly what Umno did in Perak in February 2009.
“We cannot have one rule for Perak and another for the Federal Government. The law is the same,” he said, referring to the putsch that saw three PR assemblymen turn independent and hand over the Silver State to BN.
Thomas added that saying he had support of the King’s and Army may have just been political points Anwar was making but again there wasn othing illegal about it.
Lawyer Edmond Bon said the government must first prove the allegations were an actual threat to national security if they wanted to charge Anwar for sedition.
“But there was no threat to national security and in fact, what Anwar failed to do at the federal level was actually what BN did in Perak when they toppled the PR-led state-government last year.”
He added that both the King and Army could also take Anwar to court for defamation if they feel strongly about the allegations.
Selangor Speaker Teng Chang Khim, who was a practising lawyer, said there is nothing in the Sedition Act 1948 to support the minister’s assertions that Anwar can be charged for sedition because he had not done anything unlawful.
“The Act is clear that what’s lawful cannot be regarded as seditious tendency,” the DAP leader said.
Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan said their view is that the Sedition Act was a “political
tool” which should not even be used.
“The law is so subjective that even I can be charged under it for talking to you,” he said.
He pointed that both BN and the opposition had called on the law to be used at one time or another but the Bar Council’s view is that the law is archaic and should be abolished.
Ragunath said that if the public was really upset about Anwar’s Sept 16 claim they could express it in the ballot box.
“Shouldn’t public ridicule be enough?” he asked.
Last week Bayan Baru MP Datuk Seri Mohd Zahrain Hashim triggered the debate after he claimed Anwar told PKR leaders the King had consented to the takeover bid and that the armed forces was backing him.
Zahrain who resigned from PKR last month to turn independent, disclosed the allegations in Parliament while debating the Royal Address.
Nazri said if Zahrain’s claims are true, Anwar’s actions were akin to inciting rebellion against the government.
Anwar has yet to respond to the allegations while Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail have said he will wait for police investigations to be completed before considering any further action.