Malaysia to define what is considered an insult to royals and enact harsher punishments, after 3 arrested for comments about former King

The arrest of three people who made inflammatory comments on social media about the resignation of former King Sultan Muhammad V has resulted in the government’s move to enforce stricter punishments for those who make seditious comments about royalty.
Reuters
  • Malaysia’s government arrested three netizens for making inflammatory comments about former King Sultan Muhammad V on Jan 8.

  • Now, it will be revising sedition laws to dole out harsher punishments for those who make insulting comments or actions towards royals.

  • The new laws will also define what is considered an insulting comment or action.

  • Previously, the PH administration promised to repeal ‘draconian’ laws like the Sedition Act, but it has yet to do so.

Following the arrest of three people for inflammatory social media comments about former King Sultan Muhammad V, the Malaysian government has decided to enforce harsher punishments for those who make insulting comments about royals.

The new laws will also define what is considered an insulting comment or action toward royalty, local media reported.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong announced on Thursday (Jan 10) that the government was looking to revise the Sedition Act to include heavier punishments for offences against the monarchy, Bernama said.

According to the Malay Mail, Liew – who is also legal affairs minister – said that existing punishments under the Act “for certain offences against the monarchy is a bit on the low side“.

Currently, first time offenders found guilty of making comments that “create discontent or disaffection” among the subjects of any Malaysian state ruler face a maximum fine of RM5,000, or a jail term of up to three years. Subsequent offenders face a jail term of up to five years.

“Ours is a constitutional monarchy, so the government must always ensure that our rulers are protected from unfounded slander and attacks by irresponsible people,” Bernama quoted Liew as saying.

Elaborating on these laws, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the government would decide on what constituted an insult against a ruler, Bernama said in a separate report.

“Right now, the enforcement authorities do not understand what is tantamount to an insult, so we have to spell out what actions or words can be construed as insulting,” Bernama quoted Mahathir as saying.

The PM added that it was not right, however, to criminalise those who made factual statements.

“If we shut the mouths of everyone until people cannot even speak up against acts of crime, then there will be injustice in the country,” The Straits Times quoted Mahathir as saying.

According to an AFP report carried by the New Straits Times, the Pakatan Harapan administration had in its election manifesto pledged to abolish laws like the Sedition Act – which human rights group Lawyers for Liberty called a “draconian piece of legislation” –  but has not yet done so.

Read also: