10 December, 2009

Malaysia's human rights record has deteriorated under new premier Najib Razak !

Malaysia's human rights record has deteriorated under new premier Najib Razak, a leading rights group alleged, saying he was more intolerant of dissent than his predecessors.

Launching its annual report, Voice of the Malaysian People (Suaram) criticised Najib's performance since he took office in April, including the arrest of nearly 600 people in a protest against internal security laws.

It also cited the arrest of 167 people in May "for holding candlelit vigils" during a political crisis over the control of a northern state.

"We warned the new leadership of Najib might herald a new era of stronger authoritarianism compared to previous prime ministers, and what we see so far is the exact thing we thought would happen," said Suaram coordinator John Liu.

Najib came to power vowing to heal race relations in the multi-ethnic country, and to review a tough Internal Security Act (ISA) which allows indefinite detention without trial.

Suaram demanded the ISA be abolished, saying there had been seven new arrests under the law this year even though 39 detainees were freed. Currently nine people are still being held under the ISA.

"We don't think there is any improvement on human rights. Out of a ranking of 1-10, I would give Najib a score of three to four," Suaram director Kua Kia Soong told a press conference.

In the report, Suaram said Najib has displayed an "increased level of intolerance" towards dissent and was "seriously undermining the freedom of speech, expression and assembly".

Institutions such as the judiciary and police continued to suffer a "serious crisis of public confidence", the group said.

It also said it was "very concerned" about the plight of indigenous people, amid arrests over land claims and rape allegations that have been the subject of a government investigation.

The report said Malaysia continued to be listed as one of the worst places for refugees by a US watchdog, and had been reinstated by the United States on a human trafficking blacklist.

Suaram also urged the government to approve a freedom of information act, noting the country only scored 132 out of 173 on the Reporters Without Borders' global press freedom index.




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