Rights group slams KL for ‘more rhetoric than reality’

“During the early days of his government, Prime Minister Najib talked big on protecting human rights — but talk is cheap,” Robertson said. “If the government really believes in its 1 Malaysia campaign, then it should demonstrate real commitment to improving respect for the human rights of all Malaysians.”


Malaysia has failed to undertake systematic reforms to fulfil Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s oath of office in April 2009 promising to respect “the fundamental rights of the people,” Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2010.

The 612-page report, the New York-based organisation’s 20th annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarises major human rights trends in more than 90 nations and territories worldwide.

In Malaysia, the report said, instead of addressing persistent human rights problems, the government harasses the political opposition; improperly restricts the rights to peaceful expression, association, and assembly; and mistreats migrants.

“The Malaysian government appears to be more interested in pursuing short-term political advantage than safeguarding rights,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“In the hopes of maintaining control and power, the government has turned its back on its promises to protect people’s rights.”

The release of a number of detainees held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) early in Najib’s term was a positive development, Human Rights Watch said. But Parliament should repeal that and other repressive laws, including the Police Act 1967, which was most recently used to justify a violent crackdown on a citizens’ march against the ISA on Aug 1 last year.

It reported that security forces attacked the gathering with tear gas and water laced with chemicals fired from water cannon trucks, and arrested almost 600 people, including 44 children.

Human Rights Watch also criticised the government’s continuing heavy restrictions on freedom of expression, saying “The Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 enables government officials to compel censorship of publications through control of printing and distribution licenses.

“More recently, Internet media and bloggers are coming under closer scrutiny as the government, cognisant of the Internet’s impact in the last general election, tries to rein in non-traditional media,” it added.

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