Scant progress on reforms in Malaysia, says global human rights report
January 22, 2012
The Peaceful Assembly Act has been criticised by the Bar Council and the opposition for disallowing “assemblies in motion”, or marches, and giving police greater powers over public gatherings.
“Malaysia’s new public assembly law is even more restrictive than the law it replaced. This is hardly the ‘reform’ that Malaysia needs,” HRW deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson, said in a statement.
HRW also highlighted the “systematic targeting” and “arbitrary detention” of critics of the government before and during the July 9 Bersih 2.0 rally, which saw tens of thousands of Malaysians take to the streets of the capital to demand free and fair elections.
“The Malaysian authorities’ crushing of Bersih’s peaceful march showed the government’s true face as an entrenched power willing to run roughshod over basic rights to maintain control.
“Apparently, Malaysians are only allowed to speak and assemble freely when they support the government,” Robertson said.
The Malaysian government should also repeal colonial era laws criminalising consensual same-sex relations to live up to its status as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Robertson stressed that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s second sodomy charge should never have gone to court and urged the Najib administration to stop using such outdated laws to “slander” political opponents.
HRW added that human rights and political reform will likely be important issues in the upcoming general election and cautioned that the ruling coalition was painting itself into a corner by backtracking on public promises to create a more open, liberal society.
“The more Prime Minister Najib and government politicians play their game of big talk, little action on rights, the more they should expect popular pushback,” Robertson warned.
The HRW World Report 2012, released today, assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including popular uprisings in the Arab world.