Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Malaysia’s new gov’t criticised for failure on human rights reforms

Malaysia’s new gov’t criticised for failure on human rights reforms

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Mahathir Mohamad is crediteed with creating a modern Malaysia, but also criticised for an authoritarian streak. AFP

Malaysia’s new gov’t criticised for failure on human rights reforms

Malaysia’s government faced criticism on Thursday for failing to repeal repressive laws and backtracking on promises to improve human rights a year after sweeping to power with a reformist agenda.

A ramshackle coalition headed by veteran politician Mahathir Mohamad stormed to a shock election victory on May 9 last year, toppling a corruption-plagued regime that had led the country since independence from Britain in 1957.

The Pact of Hope alliance had pledged to do away with repressive laws, such as the colonial-era sedition act which critics say is used to target political dissent, and legislation that allowed for indefinite detention without trial.

But the laws are still in place, and authorities have also backed away from a post-election pledge to abolish the death penalty.

In addition, the government did a U-turn on a plan to join the International Criminal Court after protests from opposition politicians and a powerful Islamic ruler.

“The government should recognise that further delays in ending abusive systems and laws will only mean further harm for the Malaysian people,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

“Prime Minister Mahathir has put his finger up to check prevailing political winds rather than standing up for human rights principles,” he added.

Mahathir – who was criticised for being authoritarian during a first stint in office from 1981-2003 – defended the failure to move faster, suggesting rights reforms did not enjoy broad support in the country.

“This is a democratic country. When people have different ideas, we have to respect their ideas,” the 93-year-old told a press conference.

“It is also their human right to be opposed to things that they do not like.”

The government’s popularity has been steadily declining since the initial euphoria of the election victory, which toppled prime minister Najib Razak, who was accused of looting state fund 1MDB.

Critics say authorities have not acted quickly to improve living standards and they have lost a string of local elections, while a leading pollster showed Mahathir’s approval rating dropped to 46 per cent in March from 71 per cent in August.

MOST VIEWED

  • Man arrested for fake PM endorsement

    The owner of currency exchange company GCG Asia Co Ltd was temporarily detained by the court yesterday for attempted fraud after Prime Minister Hun Sen reacted to the company using his name and pictures to allege his endorsement of the firm. Phnom Penh Municipal Court

  • Archeologists find ancient phallic statue

    An archeological team has found a metre-long tipless stone linga (penis) of the Hindu deity Shiva in the foundations of a temple in Kratie province’s historical Samphu Borak area, a former capital of the pre-Angkor Empire Chenla period. Thuy Chanthourn, the deputy director of

  • Sihanoukville authority orders structure dismantled

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration has ordered owners of two unauthorised construction sites to immediately dismantle them and warned of legal action if the owners failed to comply. Ly Chet Niyom, development management and construction bureau chief at the provincial hall, told The Post on

  • Police seek arrest of Chinese ‘gang’

    Cambodian police remain on the lookout for 20 Chinese nationals who earlier this month posted a video clip threatening to stoke insecurity in Preah Sihanouk province, though the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh maintained the group posed no threats to Cambodia’s national security. National Police