Human Rights Must be the Foundation of Malaysia’s Reform
Digital copy of SUARAM Annual Human Rights Report will be available for download HERE until 31 July 2019.
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Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) Annual Human Rights Report 2018 aims to outline the situation pertaining to human rights in Malaysia for the year 2018. The human rights discourse has evolved drastically following the 14th General Election. However, the first change in administration in Malaysia does not mean an end to the culture of impunity that characterize the human rights violations in Malaysia. Even under the new administration, crucial reforms to remedy the ongoing human rights violations have been slow and met with substantial opposition.
The denial of the right to fair trial remains unaddressed with hundreds if not thousands of individuals languishing in prison without any fair trial afforded to them. An estimate of at least 2,000 individuals have been detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012; and at least 3,600 individuals detained under the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA). The full scope of the abuse of the right to fair trial under SOSMA and POCA remains behind a veil with limited government data available detailing the scope of detention and the scale of arrests under these laws.
Custodial death while significantly reduced compared to earlier years, remains a point of concern with little to no criminal sanction taking place against perpetrators of torture in detention and no remedy for those who died in custody due to negligence or absence of adequate medical care. Despite the change in administration, torture is still prevalent in the criminal justice system with new cases continuing to surface as observed in Sentul and Klang in the May alone.
Freedom of expression enjoy a brief respite with withdrawal of politically motivated charges against political activists and human rights defenders. The withdrawal was soon followed with series of new investigation against human rights defenders under the Sedition Act 1948. The moratorium imposed by the Cabinet against the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 was equally as brief with its implementation in October and withdrawal by December.
Perhaps the smallest victory enjoyed by Malaysians would be the fact that freedom of assembly is better observed in 2018. Police obstruction and interference at gatherings and peaceful assemblies have evolved to one of observation and providing grudging support. Activists are now allowed to inch closer to Parliament when delivering memorandum as compared to the past. Unfortunately, perceived organizers of any peaceful assembly are still subjected to investigation by the police.
2018 may have been a disappointing year for human rights reform but it cannot be the running theme for Malaysia in the years to come. The result of the 14th General Election was clear. The people are tired of the rhetoric of the past and wants a better system of governance and greater democracy. To achieve this aspiration, human rights and democratic values must serve as the guiding principle of governance and be the foundation in which the country stands upon.
SUARAM calls on the government to take note of the key findings of SUARAM Annual Human Rights Report 2018 and act upon it. The findings by SUARAM is meant to highlight the areas in which Malaysia must improve and not a mere critique of any administration’s shortcomings. No reform can take place if an honest critique of the situation is not present.
SUARAM is committed to engage with government agencies and institution to ensure that human rights reform continue to take place in Malaysia and is ever ready to engage with the government and all other stakeholders to achieve our vision of a Malaysia where human rights and democracy is upheld and valued.