In its 2017 World Report, Human Rights Watch reported,
“Malaysia’s human rights situation continued to deteriorate in 2016, with human rights defenders, activists, political opposition figures, and journalists facing harassment and politically motivated prosecution. Those criticizing the administration of Prime Minister Najib Razak or commenting on the government’s handling of the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) corruption scandal have been particular targets.”
In 2018, there is no sign that things are improving.
The said report further complains that Malaysia has fared poorly in various basic human rights, particularly Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Assembly and Association, Police Abuse and Impunity and the Criminal Justice System, amongst others.
Incidents such as dropping yellow balloons bearing the words “Free Media”, “Democracy”, “Justice” at an event attended by the PM which are deemed offensive and intolerance over cartoons which may not be complimentary of the PM inspire little, if any, confidence on the state of Freedom of Expression in this country internationally.
Similarly, the use of the Sedition Act, 1948, particularly on opposition personalities may be seen as attempts to stifle dissent especially when the PM had at one point pledged to abolish the said Act. Again, the continued use of such outdated, draconian laws does little to boost Malaysia’s human rights record.
The introduction of various legislation such as the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) and the numerous death in custody cases are testament to the Government’s failure and lack of political will to address the problem effectively.
Deputy PM and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi revealed in Parliament last year that from 2010 to February, 2017, a total of 1,654 people had died in custody and promised that the authorities will not compromise or protect any enforcement officers if they are found to have played a hand in the deaths of people in custody. Yet, despite such an assurance, in January and February, 2017 itself, at least three deaths in custody were reported, that of Soh Kai Chiok, S. Balamurugan and Thanaseelan Muniandy.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the said Human Rights Watch Report cited the case of N. Dhamendran as an example of police abuse when it reported,
“In April 2016, the Enforcement Agencies Integrity Commission (EAIC) found that N. Dharmendran, who died in police custody in 2013, was beaten to death and recommended that the officers responsible be held to account. In June 2016, however, a court acquitted all four officers of all charges, continuing the longstanding impunity for such offenses.”
The issue of human rights abuse in Malaysia is too wide an area to be covered in this statement and it is not my intention to do so here.
Suffice it is to say that it would be unwise to ignore the blatant abuse of human rights record in Malaysia and claim that the said NHRAP is capable of curing such abuses in the near future. If the Government was serious about improving the state of human rights in this country, surely such a plan such as the said NHRAP ought to have been launched much earlier having regard to the fact that such human rights abuses are not uncommon in this country and not only when the elections are around the corner.
Malaysia must strive to improve its human rights record internationally or risk experiencing the same fate as the MACC which was surprisingly “shocked” recently when Transparency International’s (TI) recently announced that Malaysia dropped seven places in the overall ranking of 180 countries in its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in 2017 to 62nd place.
Dated this 1st March, 2018.
Member of Parliament
Democratic Action Party