The spirit of change that came with the election result of 9 May has certainly gave hope to Malaysians that the nation’s democratic spirit persists despite the gradual erosion since our independence in 1957. A sense of euphoria has certainly gripped the nation since 9 May, with many still enjoying the afterglow of our success in upholding democracy.
However, in this euphoria, we must look behind us to the past to identify and excise that which had led Malaysia to its predicament. The erosion of our democratic institutions and the violations of human rights that gave rise to tyrants must be identified and analyzed at length to ensure that Malaysia as a country comes out of this change stronger than ever.
2017 has been a year where justice was denied to thousands as the use of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA) went into overdrive and led to the arrest and detention of more than 600 individuals under SOSMA and 1,000 under POCA in 2017 alone. The massive numbers of arrest and detention under these laws raises the question of why and the government policies on tackling crime within the country.
Freedom of expression was substantially curtailed by the government with any disparaging remarks made against political leaders or public figures resulting in arrest and prosecution under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. The Sedition Act 1948 which was supposed to be repeal years ago continues to hound critical Malaysians at every turn.
Community defending their homes from demolition and destruction are left helpless to those looking to strip them of their homes as the Royal Malaysian Police marched in line with the tunes of corporations and the government in the demolition of blockade in Kelantan and the demolitions of homes in Subang. While redress is granted to some, the core questions of human rights and dignity are left unanswered with promises of more crackdown to take place against those who dare stand for their rights and livelihood.
Beyond these issues, the question of what has happened to Raymond Koh, Amri Che Mat and others remains unanswered; the viciousness of selected police officer which led to the death of S. Balamurugan remains unaddressed with the perpetrators walking away unfazed; 159 minors still languish in detention without trial; the status Indira Gandhi’s child remains unknown; and refugees are still left to brave the changes that may leave them even more so vulnerable to exploitation.
While the grim stories of human rights violations and developments documented by SUARAM throughout 2017 does not necessarily lies with the current federal government, the damages the outgoing government have inflicted upon countless Malaysian must be revisited with adequate redress or relief provided to alleviate the harm caused by past violations.
The relief and redress provided can only be the first step for Malaysia to heal and recover. Moving into the future, the policies that govern the country must change to reflect the principles of democracy and human rights and not the whims of the political powers of the day.