PETALING JAYA: The local chapter of human rights group Amnesty International today hit out at what it called an alarming trend of the government cracking down on dissent.
Amnesty International Malaysia interim executive director Gwen Lee said the authorities’ continuous crackdown on critics and dissent saw human rights issues continuing to suffer in the country.
“Malaysia’s relentless crackdown on freedom of expression, arbitrary travel bans and violations of indigenous people’s rights are some of the major concerns raised in the Amnesty International Report.
“Restrictive laws like the Sedition Act 1948 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 continue to be used to harass, detain and prosecute government critics in an effort to silence them,” she said during the release of the 2016/17 report, “The State of the World’s Human Rights”.
She said the Court of Appeal ruled in July last year that the government had absolute discretion to bar any citizen from travelling abroad without needing to provide a reason.
“This ruling allows for continued violations of the right to freedom of movement, including for cartoonist Zunar and activist Hishamuddin Rais.”
Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque, was barred from flying to Singapore to attend a forum there in October 2016.
Last November, he failed in his attempt to have his travel ban revoked by the High Court. He is now attempting to challenge the validity of the immigration law in the Federal Court.
Lee said the report also highlighted the crackdown on the rights of association and assembly.
She pointed to Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah and the coalition’s secretariat member Mandeep Singh, whom she said were targeted in October last year for organising the #KitaLawan rally despite their previous charges being dismissed in court.
Likewise, Amnesty International’s report also noted the increased attacks on indigenous people’s rights, she added.
“In January 2017, 21 indigenous human rights defenders in Kelantan were detained along with two journalists. The rights of these people remain under threat due to the logging activities which continue without the free, prior and informed consent of the communities.”
In August last year, she added, another 11 individuals were arrested in Perak for peacefully protesting against a logging company.
Lee said the report also focused on arbitrary arrests and detention, the death penalty, deaths in custody and the continued discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Malaysia.