Global rights group gives PH thumbs down ahead of first year in power

Activists march in Kuala Lumpur last month to demand the setting-up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

PETALING JAYA: Global rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government not only failed to fulfil its pledge to improve Malaysia’s human rights record, but also succumbed to pressure from political opponents by back-pedalling on promised reforms and commitments to human rights.

“The government should recognise that further delays in ending abusive systems and laws will only mean further harm for the Malaysian people,” said HRW’s Asia deputy director Phil Robertson ahead of PH’s first year in power tomorrow.

Robertson cited the failure to repeal several draconian acts as promised in the coalition’s manifesto, as well as the tweaking of its pledges to abolish the death sentence and the law giving emergency-like powers to the National Security Council.

“The amendments (to NSA) give the council even more powers and would allow the government to presume company directors guilty of offences by their companies unless they prove otherwise,” he added.

HRW said there were indications by PH that it would implement reforms in the weeks following its historic win in the May 9 election, but these also faltered.

These included the establishment of the Institutional Reforms Committee which engaged with the public to come up with a roadmap for legal and administrative reforms, and a moratorium on the Sedition Act.

“Nine months after the Institutional Reform Committee’s report was submitted to the prime minister in July 2018, it has still not been made public, demonstrating a lack of transparency and accountability,” said HRW.

It also noted the government’s about-turn on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the Rome Statute.

In November, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government would not sign ICERD, a global convention on ending discrimination, following protests led by Umno and PAS.

In April, Mahathir cited royal pressure in cancelling Malaysia’s ratification of the Rome Statute.

HRW also questioned the government’s failure to establish the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), against a backdrop of damning indictments of the police in high profiles cases, including the disappearance of two individuals that the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) blamed on the police.

On April 3, following a year-long inquiry which heard witness testimonies, Suhakam concluded that the Special Branch was responsible for the disappearance of Amri Che Mat and Raymond Koh in 2016 and 2017.

“After a year in power, the Malaysian government has nowhere to go but up in attaining its human rights pledges,” said HRW.