PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian government’s human rights record will be judged on its accomplishments, and not its promises, says the Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The global advocacy body said the government could still turn its record around by standing up and acting on behalf of the country’s marginalised communities.
In its World Report 2020, HRW said the promised human rights reforms last year stalled as the government either backed away from, or delayed acting on its campaign commitments.
It said that while the government undertook some positive reform steps, it failed to achieve reforms in several key areas.
“Malaysia’s reform process is failing because the ruling coalition’s leaders have lacked the political will to stand up for principles in the face of political opposition.
“The government needs to make a renewed effort to follow through on its promises for human rights reforms, ” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director in a statement on Tuesday (Jan 14).
The report said some of the positive reforms included repealing the Anti-Fake News law, advancing a draft law to establish an Independent Police Complaints of Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) and strengthening parliamentary independence to consider rights issues.
However, the report noted that the government failed to achieve reforms in key areas such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, HRW reviewed human rights practices in nearly 100 countries.
The report noted that Malaysia withdrew from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in April last year, barely a month after becoming a formal party to the treaty.
The report also said the government retreated from a commitment to completely abolish the death penalty and would instead introduce legislation to end the mandatory application of capital punishment for various crimes.
The report also said the government failed to carry out commitments to abolish or reform a range of abusive laws, including the much-abused Sedition Act and that it was still used, particularly against those criticising Malaysia’s royalty.
It added that despite promises to repeal “draconian provisions” of the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), the government continued to use the law, including for the detention of 12 people, including two DAP lawmakers, for supposedly supporting the defunct Sri Lankan LTTE group.
The report also said police abuse remained a serious problem in Malaysia, as was the lack of accountability for such abuses.
It also noted that discrimination against LGBT people was pervasive, with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and other government officials making statements expressing a lack of support for the community.
“The Malaysian government’s human rights record will be judged on its accomplishments, not its promises.
“The government can still turn its record around by standing up and acting on behalf of the country’s marginalised communities, ” said Robertson.
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