Malaysia: Backsliding on Rights (Part II)

Posted on Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 and is filed under Asia, World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Government harassment of human rights defenders continued in 2012, Human Rights Watch said. In response to spurious allegations by Jaringan Melayu Malaysia, an organization with close ties to Malaysia’s leaders, the government pursued a politically motivated investigation of Suaram, a leading Malaysian human rights organization in operation since 1989. At least six government agencies are seeking to find Suaram’s registration and operations illegal. Investigators have harassed staff and supporters, and threatened them with arrest while government politicians and government-controlled media outlets have publicly attacked the organization. On September 3, a week before investigations had begun, a government minister accused Suaram of keeping “highly suspicious” accounts and said that “99.4 percent” of its activities were “money collecting.”

Groups supporting the rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) people fared even worse, Human Rights Watch said. In two speeches in 2012, Prime Minister Najib condoned discrimination by singling out the LGBT community as a threatening “deviant culture” that “would not have a place in the country.” Not only was the annualSeksualiti Merdeka (Sexual Diversity, in English) festival canceled in 2012 amidst ongoing intimidation of the LGBT community, but a court refused a judicial review of the police ban on the 2011 festival, a decision that festival organizers say leaves future festivals in legal limbo. 

“The Malaysian authorities should respect the fundamental rights of non-discrimination and equality, and stop demonizing people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director for the LGBT program at Human Rights Watch.

Reforms to freedom of the press also proved to be less than anticipated, Human Rights Watch said. The Printing Presses and Publications Act was amended, dropping the requirement for annual licensing of publications and ending the Home Affairs Minister’s power to award or rescind publishing licenses without court review. However, the revised law still requires that new publications obtain initial approval, and licenses still may be arbitrarily revoked.  (To be concluded…)

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