KUALA KANGSAR, July 14 (Bernama) -- The National Harmony Act which will replace the Sedition Act 1948 allows criticism of government and leaders in the effort to guarantee freedom of speech as enshrined in the country's constitution, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.
He said under the Sedition Act, this was not permitted.
"The Sedition Act has a provision of not allowing the raising of anger against the government, but now we have discarded it as crtiticism levelled at the government and leaders is legitimate under the freedom of speech guaranteed under the Constitution.
"We should face the criticisms by the people as this will serve as a check and balance for the government to realise its weaknesses," he told reporters after opening a futsal court in Taman Kuala Kangsar here today.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the repeal of the Sedition Act 1948 which would replaced it with a new act known as the national Harmony Act.
Mohamed Nazri said however, there is no absolute freedom of speech in a multi-racial and multi-religious country, and such the new act would continue to protect racial harmony and the Institution of the Malay Rulers.
"There should be no absolute freedom to the extent we can call people pariah, pimps and so on.
"It is abvious we want to protect the Institution of the Malay Rulers. They are above politics and this country practises Constitutional Monarchy," he said.
He said the Attorney General's Chambers had been directed to obtain views from all relevant parties including members of the public before the bill is formulated.
"I do not expect it to be tabled in the coming Dewan Raykat sitting as September is too near. Maybe next year," he said.
Mohamed Nazri said the new act had to be created as the Sedition Act was obsolete considering it had been used since 1948 under the British colonialism.
"We will repeal obsolete laws. The British did not allow the people to crtiicise the colonial government. It was their way of shutting the mouth of the people, by using the Sedition Act," he said.
When asked why the government did not retain the Sedition Act by making several amendments in the act without the need to formulate a new law, Mohamed Nazri said the name of the act needed to be changed as it gave a negative conotation.
"We want to protect national harmony. As such the new act will take the name reflecting our desire and the old act has to be repealed," he said.