Gobind: Cabinet fine with Sedition Act freeze

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KUALA LUMPUR — The Cabinet agrees that the Sedition Act should not be enforced pending its repeal, said Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo.

He said on Wednesday Cabinet members were wholly supportive when the proposal was made.

The A-G has the full prerogative to decide prosecutions in the country, based on powers vested in him by the Federal Constitution.

“The decision was made that since we are going to abolish the Act, action under that Act should be suspended temporarily,” he told reporters at the Malaysiakini E-Commerce Entrepreneurship Summit yesterday.

The minister said the Cabinet’s decision will be communicated to Attorney-General Tommy Thomas for his action.

On Tuesday, Malaysian Bar president George Varughese reiterated his call to the government to immediately impose a moratorium on the Act pending the repeal.

Police have continued sedition arrests despite the pledged repeal, prompting questions over the ruling government’s sincerity in its promise to repeal the colonial-era law.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also said that unpopular laws remain enforceable so long as they exist, but it was not immediately clear if he was referring to this law specifically or in general.

Meanwhile on a separate matter, Gobind said the amount of money suspected to have been embezzled from the National Film Development Corp Malaysia (Finas) could be higher than the initial estimate of RM16 million.

He said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is investigating RM25 million missing from Finas.

He said his ministry, which oversees Finas, is in the process of carrying out an internal audit, and will submit its findings to the MACC for further probe as it involves numerous accounts.

He said he will provide more information once the audit is completed.

“The main thing is the audit will involve two matters, the first is Finas’ serious financial issues.

“Secondly, its financial system will have to be looked at, and as I said before, Finas is currently being restructured with its new board to be announced in a few days,” Gobind said.

He said the new board will also conduct its own checks of Finas’ previous affairs, and will include anything it finds in the audit report or make the relevant reports to either the MACC or police if the need arises.

Gobind denied that former Finas director-general Datuk Fauzi Ayob and his deputy Datuk Azmir Saifuddin Mutalib were relieved of their posts on Monday due to the investigations.

Fauzi and Azmir were temporarily replaced by ministry deputy secretary-general Shakib Ahmad Shakir and its finance division deputy secretary Fairul Azida Shahabudin, respectively.

“We changed them since we are bringing in a new team (the board) that will not only see what is happening, but also give me ideas on restructuring so that Finas can move forward.

“The film industry has expanded rapidly in the past few years, especially in this digital world. The whole industry is changing; hence, the need for a new board that can give new ideas for Finas to remain relevant,” he said, adding that it was not connected in any way to the missing funds.

It was earlier reported that in 2015 and 2016, RM16 million of Finas’ funds were provided to film production companies for seven films, but the films have yet to be released.