Dr Mahathir Mohamad would have been the first Malaysian to be charged under the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 if there had not been a change of government in the last general election, said Lim Kit Siang.
Noting how the previous administration had bulldozed the legislation through before the polls, the DAP veteran said if former premier Najib Abdul Razak had retained power, Malaysia would have been turned into an “Alice-in-Wonderland” country.
“Where any reference to the 1MDB scandal would be a criminal offence under the Anti-Fake News Act liable to be jailed for six years or fined RM500,000, or both, although outside the borders of Malaysia, the whole world would know about the 1MDB scandal and Malaysia becoming a global kleptocracy.
“Malaysia would have made world history in discovering a new weapon to cover-up corruption, in particular, the 1MDB corruption and money-laundering scandal and to entrench Malaysia's 3Is – ignominy, infamy and iniquity – as a global kleptocracy,” he added in a statement this afternoon.
According to Lim, Mahathir would not have been alone in facing charges under the act.
“He would be accompanied by all the other Pakatan Harapan leaders, whether DAP, PKR, Bersatu or Amanah, who would be marching in and out of courts in orange garbs to face mountainous charges...
“This was made very clear by the former deputy minister for communications and multimedia, Jailani Johari, who had once defined what would fall under the act: Any information about 1MDB that had not been verified by the government, he said, 'is deemed as fake news'.
“I had said that the Anti-Fake News Act was, in fact, a 'Save Najib from 1MDB Scandal' legislation which criminalised all news about 1MDB scandal in Malaysia,” he added.
Lim, who has repeatedly complained about how fake news propagated by Harapan's rivals is sowing racial and religious discord as well as hampering nation-building efforts, also noted that BN and PAS senators sabotaged the repeal of the act.
Therefore, the Iskandar Puteri MP asked if Najib, BN and PAS leaders should instead be the first to be charged under the Anti-Fake News Act until the legislation could be repealed.
On Sept 12, the bill to repeal the law was defeated in the Dewan Negara in a 28 to 21 vote, marking it the first time that the Upper House defeated a bill brought by the Dewan Rakyat.
Following this, BN senator Khairul Azwan Harun said the opposition bench blocked the repeal because the law should be improved rather than abolished.
Citing how the US elections were compromised by fake news, he said the law was still relevant.
"The threat is real and I fear our political landscape is too young to be further polarised because of fake news. The basics of democracy, debate and dialogue all depend on commonly accepted facts. And that is what we want to protect.
“This Senate does not oppose for the sake of slowing down the new government. After all, we were the ones who allowed the sales and services tax to pass.
"This anti-fake news law should be a protection for the common man, against interests, either local or foreign, that aim to embroil our society in endless, unproductive confrontation," he had said.
However, Lim's political aide and lawyer Syahredzan Johan had then labelled the opposition's move as evidence of attempts to delay the government's reform process.