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For Immediate Release
15 June 2016
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) launched its Annual Human Rights Report 2015 on the 15th June 2016 at Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.
In 2015 as in previous years, Malaysia continued to crack down on critics, dissenters, opposition politicians and human rights defenders. With the introduction of increasingly repressive laws and the crude manner in which the Government of Malaysia stretches the limit of its power to penalize the voices of dissent, Malaysia is tipping further into an autocratic state. In the expansive list of human rights violations recorded in 2015, SUARAM seeks to highlight the following:
Harassment, Restriction and Detention of Dissenters, Political Opposition and Human Rights Defenders
With the exposure of the 1MDB scandal in the international press and the growing voice of dissent, the government initiated its campaign of crackdown against dissenters, political oppositions and human rights defenders. Between the mass arrests during the #KitaLawan, #TangkapNajib and #BantahGST rallies and the investigations and harassments of human rights defenders following Bersih 4.0 under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, the Government of Malaysia has repeatedly flaunted its disregard for human rights and the decision by the Court of Appeal in 2014.
Apart from the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, countless opposition leaders and human rights defenders have been subjected to prosecution under the Sedition Act 1948, the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and Section 124 of the Penal Code. In an extreme case, activist Khalid Ismath was subjected to solitary confinement and inhuman treatment when he was detained for expressing his views on the detention of Kamal Hisham.
Justifying Denial of Civil Liberties with Security
Following the high profile terror attacks around the globe in 2015, the Malaysian government claimed the need for stronger measures to prevent terrorism. Under the guise of national security, the Government of Malaysia introduced new laws that are far more repressive and draconian than existing laws. These include the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) 2015 that permits detention without trial and the National Security Council Bill that grants the Prime Minister power to declare an area a security area and to impose quasi-emergency status in the area.
Besides the introduction of these new repressive laws, the state launched a series of arrests and detentions under existing provisions including the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and the Prevention of Crime Act 1959, raising grave concerns for the denial of the right to a fair trial. The criminal justice system of Malaysia has also been compromised by the existence of laws such as POCA and POTA. In 2015, the allegations of torture by victims of these laws raise grave concern for the rights and physical well-being of those charged under these Acts. These also cast doubt on the professionalism and effectiveness of the Royal Malaysian Police in countering terrorism and maintaining law and order.
Contempt for the Rights and Welfare of Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrant Workers
The heart wrenching scenes of refugees adrift in the Andaman Sea and the chilling images from the Wang Keliang death camps were not enough to change the stance of the Government of Malaysia or the state government of Penang on the plight of asylum seekers and refugees. They continue to live in fear of harassment, prosecution and deportation. With no respite in sight for the continued harassment and denial of rights of the Rohingya people by the Burmese state, the problems that manifested itself in 2015 during the height of the refugee crisis would likely be repeated in 2016.
State Sanctioned Corporate Interests at the Expenses of Human Rights
With scant respect for human rights, corporations and businesses have been given a free hand to accumulate profits in Malaysia. While cases of illegal logging, forced evictions and land grabs have become common news items, the state and the police seem ineffectual in preventing the confiscation of the rights and interest of the people affected.
The signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in 2016 despite the vocal opposition and protests in 2015 leaves Malaysians apprehensive about the negative impact on the welfare and rights of Malaysians that the TPPA will bring.
The political turmoil within the ruling government as well as the opposition is challenging for human rights defence whether civil and political rights or economic, social and cultural rights. Regardless of political inclination, the events that transpired in 2015 have reaffirmed the need for immediate steps to be taken to remedy the on-going human rights violations.
To this end, SUARAM calls upon the Government of Malaysia to sign and ratify the remaining international conventions and to invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur to investigate and report on human rights in Malaysia.
SUARAM further calls upon the Royal Malaysian Police to reform its operations and structure to be more transparent and accountable by establishing a memorandum of understanding with SUHAKAM and EAIC outlining best practices to be adopted by the police to ensure that the standard operating procedures of the Royal Malaysian Police are compliant with international human rights norms.
With these recommendations, SUARAM hopes that 2016 will not be another year of dark despair but a year of redemption for human rights in Malaysia.
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