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SUARAM's Annual Human Rights Report 2023

While providing a comprehensive overview of the country's human rights landscape, this report also serves as a critical reflection on the human rights performance of the MADANI government within its first year in power.

Read more our press statement during the launch:

- Press Statement HRR 2023
- Kenyataan Media HRR 2023
- Full Report HRR 2023
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SUARAM's Annual Human Rights Report 2023 Keynote Speech

If I were to use one short sentence to describe the state of human rights and reform in the country in 2023 under the unity government, it would be this: we are in limbo.

On one hand, some promising steps were taken.

  • We have seen, arguably, one of the biggest milestones achieved in recent years – which was the passing of the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Bill 2023 (DR7) and the Revision of Sentence of Death and Imprisonment for Natural Life (Temporary Jurisdiction of the Federal Court) Bill 2023.

  • Commendable efforts are underway to draft the Ombudsman Bill and consult with various stakeholders on the Freedom of Information Bill. Efforts were made to empower the parliamentary special select committees to oversee decisions made by the respective government ministries. Amendments to the SUHAKAM Act were also passed to improve diversity in background of Commissioners and set up a tribunal to investigate alleged violations of code of conduct.

  • Other positive strides include the passing of three Bills to decriminalise suicide, amendments to the Sexual Offences Against Children Act to improve protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as amendments to the Evidence of Child Witness Act to better protect child witnesses in the criminal justice system.

  • Malaysia has also been steadfast and vocal in our opposition against the atrocities in Gaza by Israel at the international stage. This is also the case on the ground. SUARAM documented at least 15 peaceful assemblies in solidarity with Palestine held in Kuala Lumpur and seven other states, with the police abiding by their duty to facilitate many of these assemblies.    

 

On the other hand, the government is still implementing laws, policies and mindsets inherited from previous administrations.

  • Draconian laws passed before SUARAM came into being – the Sedition Act in 1948, the Printing Presses and Publications Act in 1984, and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act in 1985 – are still in place to this day.

  • The ‘no permit, illegal assembly’ mindset remains pervasive within the police force, which continuously perpetuate curtails to the fundamental right to peaceful assembly.

  • Issues that some members in the current government championed, including current Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, when in opposition, saw stagnant progress, and in some cases, even regression.

  • Despite stakeholder engagements held over five months in 2023, there have been no updates on when amendments to the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) will be tabled. Even worse, for the first time, SOSMA was used to arrest and detain drug syndicate members, which is concerning when existing laws such as the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 are adequate.

  • There is still no commitment by the current administration to improve the Independent Police Conduct Commission Act 2022 (IPCC) – which is ironic when many one of the pledges by the Pakatan Harapan coalition in its election manifesto in 2022.

  • Let us not forget the Universities and University Colleges Act, otherwise known as AUKU, which was used even recently against Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim when he was still opposition leader so that he could not speak on campus in the University of Malaya. And yet, the current government under his leadership only committed to amending certain provisions. These amendments are still problematic, as they do not address the fundamental issue of executive interference in university administration. They also ignore the fact that AUKU cannot be salvaged, as it was originally created in the 1970s to cripple the student movement.

  • Other crucial reforms, such as separation of the offices of the Attorney-General and the Public Prosecutor, malapportionment, constituency development fund for the political opposition, political appointments in government-linked companies and the reinstatement of local government elections, remain pending.

  • An unjustifiable ultimatum almost came to reality, trading the wellbeing and rights of stateless persons for citizenship conferral rights for Malaysian mothers. As much as the Home Ministry may have finally decided this year to not proceed with amendments that will threaten existing constitutional safeguards for stateless persons, a proposal as cruel as this should not have emerged in the first place.

 

We recognise that reform needs time, but we should not need to wait for 60 years to see reforms come to reality, like how the Rakyat had to before a change of government finally took place in 2018. For the reform envisioned back in 1998 to remain true to its course, the government must fully practise the reformist mindset. In fact, with the current political stability, there are no more excuses but to do so. Unconditionally adhere to the much-preached MADANI values of inclusivity, accountability, integrity and respect for all, and incorporate them at all levels of policymaking including consultations with civil society. Discard without hesitation the problematic narrative that human rights are a Western concept and that they should be subjected to local customs and values.  

 

By Sevan Doraisamy, Executive Director of SUARAM      

By The Chapter (A Mini-Series)

Watch a brief interview with our external authors for additional chapters in the SUARAM HRR Report 2023

Part 1 — Corruption and Governance

 

This series aims to shed light on some of what’s inside SUARAM’s Human Rights Report for the year of 2023.  

 

For Part 1—“Corruption and Governance”— we speak to the author of the chapter, Prishanth Linggaraj of C4 (@c4.center), on his views and hopes on the field of this additional chapter in our annual report.  

Bahagian 2 - Pilihan Raya Bebas dan Adil

Siri ini bertujuan untuk berkongsi sedikit kandungan dalam laporan Hak Asasi Manusia SUARAM bagi tahun 2023.

 

Bagi Bahagian 2 ini, kami telah menemu bual penulis bab tersebut, Asraf Sharafi dari BERSIH (@bersihmsia), berkenaan pandangan dan harapannya dalam bahagian tambahan laporan tahunan ini.

Part 3 — Climate Emergency

This series aims to shed light on some of what’s inside SUARAM’s Human Rights Report for the year of 2023.

For Part 3—“Climate Emergency”—we speak to the author of the chapter, Ili Nadiah of Klima Action Malaysia or KAMY (@klimaaction), on her views and hopes on the field of this additional chapter in our annual report.

Part 4 — Regressive Citizenship Amendments (Special Feature)

 

This series aims to shed light on some of what’s inside SUARAM’s Human Rights Report for the year of 2023.

 

For Part 4—“Regressive Citizenship Amendments”—we speak to the author of the chapter, Maalini Ramalo of Development of Human Resources for Rural Areas (DHRRA) Malaysia (@dhrramalaysia), on her views and hopes on the field of this special feature in our annual report.

Bahagian 5 - Kebebasan Beragama dan Kepercayaan


Siri ini bertujuan untuk berkongsi sedikit kandungan dalam laporan Hak Asasi Manusia SUARAM bagi tahun 2023.

 

Bagi Bahagian 5 ini, kami telah menemu bual penulis bab tersebut, Hisham Muhaimi dari INITIATE.MY (@initiate.my), berkenaan pandangan dan harapannya dalam bahagian tambahan laporan tahunan ini. 

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