PETALING JAYA: Pakatan Harapan's reforms on the human rights front a year after coming into power have been a “profound disappointment”, says the Human Rights Watch.
Its deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said that while they were excited by the reform pledges in Pakatan's manifesto, the government has done little to fulfil its promises and had even back-pedalled.
“We know from experience that momentum for reform is highest at the very beginning, and frankly that hasn't happened…
“It feels like we are heading in the wrong direction,” he said told a joint press conference with Amnesty International Malaysia on Wednesday (May 8).
In its manifesto, Pakatan promised sweeping changes, including reforming key government institutions and revoking certain laws that were deemed to be repressive.
Among the laws that were to be repealed were the Sedition Act, the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca), the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), and the National Security Council Act.
The government had also announced that it would abolish the death penalty in totality in October last year.
Robertson said that facing objections from Umno and PAS, the government reversed its commitments and delayed other promised actions.
Another reversal Robertson pointed out was the signing of the Rome Statute of the International Crime Court, in which the government withdrew from its accession after concerns from the Malay Rulers.
“There’s far too much of the government coasting on the prevailing political winds. It has to stand up and show some conviction,” he said.
“If you look at the way most governments proceed, it is in the first year of their governance that the most reform is made. This is when the political momentum is there and people are expecting for things to change.
“We have now crossed the one-year mark, it's not too late for reforms. But in another year or two, the thing people will be talking about is looking towards the next election.
“And once the politics gets even deeper into it, it becomes harder to make reforms,” he added.
Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu said that while there were hits, there seemed to be more misses when it came to implementing human rights reforms in the country.
She said that when first assuming power, the government had noble intentions to introduce reforms, but there was a lack of clear direction towards these reforms.
She said that some of the bold statements of rights reforms were swiftly followed by disappointing U-turns, indicating a lack of political will.
“I think we recognise that it is a struggle to introduce some of these reforms but at the same time, if they don't do it, then when?
“We have four years left to the next election. And that is something the government needs to remember, and remember that it won the last election based on the promises it made,” she said.