A global human rights report rebukes Malaysia's reluctance to improve human rights in the country.
The 650-page World Report 2011 is an annual review of human rights practices in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide.
It deemed that the continued repressive practices by the Najib administration was a “blatant disregard” to the pledges Malaysia made during its successful campaign for election to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last May.
Malaysia’s inclusion in the UNHRC was met with widespread criticism from international bodies which claimed that it fell short of United Nations’ standards.
“The Malaysian government is all talk and no action when it comes to human rights,” said HRW’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson.
“Prime Minister Najib and his ministers are mistaken if they think that floating ‘trial balloons’ to make badly needed changes to laws and policies is enough to keep Malaysian civil society and the international community at bay,” he added.
The report highlighted the three main issues which HRW had repeatedly admonished Malaysia for violating – freedom of expression, assembly and association.
Included under these issues were the Internal Security act (ISA), the Police Act 1967, the Sedition Act 1948 and the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.
“The Malaysian government does not hesitate to use draconian laws to harass or gag journalists critical of the authorities, human rights defenders, civil society activists, or members of the political opposition,” the report said.
It cited the sedition charge on political cartoonist Zunar, the ban on his books and the refusal to grant online news portal Malaysiakini a print license as examples of such violations.
HRW also took Malaysia to task for its recent amendments to the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act which it said would likely reduce protection for trafficking victims and smuggled migrant workers.
“Rather than a serious and sustained effort, Malaysian officials have opted for short-term and ill-considered measures. Malaysia has a long way to go to be the rights-respecting nation that its government leaders claim it to be.
“The slogan of 1Malaysia should (also) apply to respect for international human rights standards, with renewed commitment followed by concrete actions,” Robertson said.