Deputy ministers maintained their stand that Section 114A of the Evidence Act should be amended

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PETALING JAYA – Two deputy ministers maintained their stand that Section 114A of the Evidence Act should be amended despite being called by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin after breaking ranks over the matter.

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Gan Ping Sieu met with Muhyiddin on Monday, which was also attended by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

In confirming the meeting, Nazri said it was held to address the concerns of the two. “It was not a reprimand. We are not like the Opposition, in BN, we practice freedom of expression,” he said on Tuesday.

Nazri said the government had decided to engage the stakeholders, such as bloggers and the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), to explain the rationale in not making any changes to Section 114A.

“I will try to arrange to meet them as soon as possible,” he said.

The amendment, gazetted and enforced in July, presumes publication and ownership of offending items posted on the Internet as the owner’s unless proven otherwise.

Denying that they were chastised, the deputy ministers stressed that despite their stand, they abided by the cabinet’s decision.

Saifuddin, the deputy higher education minister, said during the discussion, he voiced his concerns over the wording of the section, which he deemed “too wide”, especially on the term “to facilitate”.

“My take is that Nazri and I are looking at the issue from two different viewpoints.

“Mine is from its impact on the political transformation towards a mature progressive democracy.

“At the end of the meeting, I stated I still think we need to amend it. However, since the Cabinet has decided status quo and Nazri is going to meet the stakeholders, we’ll leave it at that for now,” he said in a text message.

He also said there is a need to learn from best practises in the world, such as Brazil’s Internet Bill of Rights, on top of guaranteeing that there would be no Internet censorship.

Gan, who is the deputy youth and sports minister, said he conveyed his and his party (MCA) concerns over the Act, namely there should be clear guidelines on how the government planned to enforce Section 114A as well as dos and don’ts.

“The terms used are couch too wide and general. It will be better if there are guidelines to allay public’s fear that the innocent will be prosecuted,” he said.

He said Muhyiddin received their views well and suggested there should be more engagement, while Nazri assured them that 114A was necessary to check cybercriminals. – The Star