- Ex-minister claims BN bought votes with cash
- Malaysia: Promises of Reform Unfulfilled Little Progress on Peaceful Assembly, Detention Without Trial
Posted: 24 Jan 2012 06:31 PM PST
Source: Sin Chew Daily
Posted: 24 Jan 2012 05:39 PM PST
PETALING JAYA, Jan 17 — A former federal minister from Umno claimed today that cash was handed out in previous election campaigns in attempts to buy votes, a tactic known as "bomb".
Tan Sri Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir said in a forum today that he had experienced himself how cash handouts ranging from RM200 to RM1,000 was used in Barisan Nasional's election campaigns to gain voter support.
"I have been the head of delegation of many campaigns and I have been given lump sums of money to distribute," said the former Information Minister at the Malaysia Strategic Outlook Conference 2012 here. "It was a blatant use of money to buy votes."
Abdul Kadir (picture), who was also formerly the Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism, said that the word used for the strategy was called "bomb".
He added though that he personally didn't use the money.
James Chin, who heads the School of Social Sciences at Monash University at Sunway, and who spoke at the forum after Abdul Kadir said that "bombing" was a very effective tool in Sabah and Sarawak.
During his presentation, Abdul Kadir said that while he still held positions in Umno, he wanted to remind them of the "Merdeka trust" — which meant giving the people the right to truly free and fair elections.
He also urged Umno not to fear losing if it was sincere in its intentions.
"If you lose accept it; people change governments all the time in US and Australia," he said. "I am an Umno man, I don't mind if I lose. If you are there just to make millions for yourself and your cronies or if I have made my billions and am afraid I will be arrested after I lose power, then I will do all these tricks."
"If you are sincere, you have nothing to fear," he added.
He said that to have free and fair elections, there must be equal access to the media and GLCs and government departments must be neutral.
"You must give them (the opposition) the freedom to have TV, radio and newspapers," he said. "For 50 years, PAS has been asking for a newspaper licence but none given — the government is a big bully."
He also said that during elections, Barisan Nasional should not be making use of the Ministry of Information, Felda, Felcra, the Special Branch and other federal agencies to support their campaign.
Abdul Kadir is also the deputy president of non-partisan pro-unity NGO Angkatan Amanah Merdeka (Amanah) and executive chairman of the Sazean group.
Posted: 24 Jan 2012 05:36 PM PST
(New York, January 23, 2012) – Malaysia fell far short during 2011 in meeting Prime Minister Najib Razak's pledges to "uphold civil liberties" and build a "functional and inclusive democracy," Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2012. Human rights and political reform are likely to be important issues in upcoming national elections, widely expected to be called during the first half of 2012.
During 2011, the government arbitrarily detained outspoken critics, teargassed and assaulted thousands who peacefully marched in support of clean and fair elections, and replaced long-existing restrictions on free assembly with even more draconian controls.
"Malaysia's leaders are fooling themselves by thinking they can backtrack on public promises to respect the rights to demonstrate peacefully and criticize the government without fear," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The more Prime Minister Najib and government politicians play their game of big talk, little action on rights, the more they should expect popular pushback."
In its World Report 2012, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including popular uprisings in the Arab world that few would have imagined. Given the violent forces resisting the "Arab Spring," the international community has an important role to play in assisting the formation of rights-respecting democracies, Human Rights Watch said in the report.
In Malaysia, Najib laid out reforms on September 15 that promised repeal of laws permitting prolonged detention without judicial review, including the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Emergency (Public Order and Crime Prevention) Ordinance; changes in section 27 of the Police Act that authorized local police chiefs to refuse permits for public assemblies and demonstrations; and amendments to the Printing Presses and Publications Act that require annual licensing of publications.
The government took some positive steps by repealing two infrequently used restrictive laws, the Restricted Residence Act and the Banishment Act, and later revoking emergency proclamations from 1966, 1969, and 1977 that authorized application of the Emergency Ordinance. However, that progress was undermined by the hasty passage of a new Peaceful Assembly Act, which bans all "assemblies in motion," such as marches and processions; gives police officials arbitrary powers over any public meetings; and contains such an expansive list of sites where rallies are prohibited that conducting a protest in an urban area will be extremely difficult.
"Malaysia's new public assembly law is even more restrictive than the law it replaced," Robertson said. "This is hardly the 'reform' that Malaysia needs."
Malaysian police repeatedly limited peaceful assembly, association, and expression in 2011. Starting in late May, when the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) announced a July 9 March for Democracy to press for electoral reforms, the government systematically targeted the movement's leaders and followers. The government declared the organization illegal under the Societies Act, arrested supporters for wearing Bersih T-shirts, raided the organization's secretariat, arbitrarily detained leaders of the Malaysian Socialist Party (Parti Sosialis Malaysia, PSM) under the Emergency Ordinance, issued travel bans to keep Bersih leaders out of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and closed down the projected march route. When these measures failed to stop the march, security forces assaulted the peaceful demonstrators with teargas and chemically infused water from water cannons, and arrested 1,697 people.
"The Malaysian authorities' crushing of Bersih's peaceful march showed the government's true face as an entrenched power willing to run roughshod over basic rights to maintain control," Robertson said. "Apparently Malaysians are only allowed to speak and assemble freely when they support the government."
In November, the government used ISA to detain 13 people it accused of being terrorists. Despite its stated intention to repeal the ISA, the government continued to detain the 13 without charging them with specific offenses under the Malaysian criminal code.
On January 9, 2012, a Kuala Lumpur court acquitted opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on charges of engaging in consensual, same-sex relations on the basis that DNA evidence submitted by the prosecution may have been tainted. The case against Anwar was politically motivated and plagued with irregularities, Human Rights Watch said. During the trial, the prosecution refused to turn over key evidence as required by the Malaysian criminal procedure code.
Malaysia should revoke its colonial-era law criminalizing consensual same-sex relations, Human Rights Watch said. It also should replace its law on non-consensual sexual acts with a gender neutral law on rape.
"Anwar's case should never have gone to trial," Robertson said. "Malaysia should stop using its outdated sodomy law to slander political opponents, and live up to its status as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council by repealing all laws that criminalize consensual same-sex relations."
In 2011, Malaysia made no improvements to its immigration policies, which make no distinction among refugees, asylum seekers, trafficking victims, and undocumented migrants. A proposed refugee swap agreement with Australia was struck down by Australia's High Court, which said it did not require Malaysia to protect asylum seekers. Malaysia lacks needed protections for trafficking victims, and migrant domestic workers remain particularly vulnerable – in part because they are exempt from key provisions of Malaysia's Employment Act.
"Malaysia's key trade partners, including the US, the EU, and Australia, should remind the government that respect for human rights is a core element of a flourishing and inclusive democracy," Robertson said.
To read Human Rights Watch's World Report 2012 chapter on Malaysia, please visit:
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Malaysia, please visit:
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Posted: 24 Jan 2012 05:34 PM PST
Source: Human Rights Watch
Despite government promises of reform and relaxation of controls in some areas, human rights in Malaysia remain tightly constrained.
On September 15, 2011, Prime Minister Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the government's intention to repeal the Internal Security Act (ISA), revoke three emergency proclamations that underpin many of Malaysia's most repressive laws, and review the Restricted Residence Act. In the same speech, however, he committed to introducing two new laws under article 149 ("Special Laws against Subversion") of the Federal Constitution, which allows parliament to enact sweeping security provisions that deny basic freedoms.
On July 9, police in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, broke up a peaceful rally organized by Bersih 2.0, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, arresting nearly 1,700 demonstrators demanding electoral reforms. Police fired teargas at close range at protesters in an underground tunnel, injuring several, and into the Tung Shin and Chinese Maternity hospital courtyard.
Detention without Charge or Trial
The ISA permits indefinite detention without charge or trial of any person that officials deem a threat to national security or public order. While use of the ISA has declined over the years, government figures released in connection with Najib's speech said 37 people were in ISA detention. The government continues to detain thousands under the Emergency (Public Order and Crime Prevention) Ordinance (EO) and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act. However, in October parliament repealed the Restricted Residence Act and 125 people previously confined under the act were released.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention singled out the EO for criticism in its February 2011 report, noting the law permits indefinite detention "without the need to sustain evidence or probe penal responsibility."
Malaysian authorities arbitrarily applied the ISA in October 2010 against immigration officers allegedly involved in human trafficking despite the availability of Malaysia's Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, but abruptly released all but one of the accused in August 2011. The last detainee was released on November 10. On July 2, police used the EO to detain six leaders of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) on the bogus charge that they were responsible for planning the Bersih rally and, until their July 29 release, subjected them to lengthy interrogations, isolation, and blindfolding.
Freedom of Expression, Assembly, and Association
Rights of expression, peaceful public assembly, and association —guaranteed in Malaysia's Constitution—continued to be violated in 2011. On May 21 Bersih announced a July 9 "Walk for Democracy" to call for reform of the electoral system. In mid-June the police announced that no police permit, required by section 27 of the Police Act, would be issued for the march. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar threatened that "stern action" would be taken against anyone involved in an "illegal rally."
Throughout June police mounted repeated shows of force, arresting activists distributing leaflets, wearing yellow Bersih shirts, or coordinating gatherings to promote the rally. On June 29 a plainclothes police unit without a warrant raided Bersih's secretariat, confiscating Bersih materials and detaining some of those present for questioning; on July 1 the Home Ministry declared Bersih an illegal organization under the Societies Act. On the day before the march police obtained a court order prohibiting 91 rally leaders from entering downtown Kuala Lumpur. Although the thousands who eluded police blockades were peaceful and well-disciplined, but police broke up the rally using baton charges, chemically infused water cannons, and teargas barrages. Nearly 1,700 people were arrested. Journalists and ordinary citizens released photographs and video documenting much of the abuse.
On June 25, police stopped a bus carrying PSM activists to a planned rally, detaining 30 on suspicion of "preparing to wage war against the king." They were released from pre-trial detention on July 2, but police immediately re-detained six of their leaders under the EO. All 30 were charged under the Societies Act and a section of the ISA outlawing possession of subversive documents. On September 19 the attorney general released them and on October 10, a court affirmed the release as a "discharge not amounting to an acquittal," which makes them subject to future prosecution. On October 28, six PSM leaders were granted the same discharge
With nearly all mainstream newspapers and television and radio stations controlled by media companies close to political parties in the government coalition, social media usage has expanded rapidly, joining popular online news portals as alternative sources for news and information. The internet remains uncensored but the Home Ministry in 2011 again refused the Malaysiakini website's application to publish a daily print version, saying that a publishing permit is "a privilege," not a right. Malaysiakini has challenged the Home Ministry's decision; at this writing the High Court was set to review the challenge on December 8, 2011. Online news portals critical of the government also came under repeated cyber-attacks by unknown assailants at key news junctures, such as the Sarawak elections in April and the Bersih rally in July.
In his September speech, Prime Minister Najib promised to amend the Printing Presses and Publications Act but only to end the mandatory annual licensing requirement. The minister of home affairs would retain broad authority, without judicial review, to refuse permission to publish anything he determines "likely to be prejudicial to public order, morality, security … or national interest."
On July 14 the High Court in Kuala Lumpur upheld the ban on seven books by Malaysiakini cartoonist Zunar and threatened revocation of printers' licenses if they produced his books.
In September the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission ordered broadcasters not to show a non-partisan voter education public service announcement created by well-known film producer and musician Peter Teo.
Trial of Anwar Ibrahim
The trial of Anwar Ibrahim, parliamentary leader of Malaysia's political opposition, has raised serious human rights concerns. Anwar is charged with "sodomy" for allegedly engaging in consensual homosexual conduct on June 26, 2008.
Court rulings have denied Anwar's legal team access to the prosecution's witness list, critical forensic samples needed for independent examination, and medical examiners' notes from hospital examinations of the accuser, in violation of international fair trial standards.
In a September 23, 2011, affidavit to the court, Prime Minister Najib affirmed he had met Saiful, the accuser, two days before the alleged incident of sodomy.
Migrant Workers, Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Trafficking Victims
The Malaysian Immigration Act 1959/1963 fails to differentiate between refugees, asylum seekers, trafficking victims, and undocumented migrants. The government is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and lacks domestic refugee law and asylum procedures.
On July 25 Australia and Malaysia signed a "refugee swap" deal that would have permitted Australia to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia for refugee screening in exchange for receiving 4,000 refugees registered by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. On August 31 the Australia High Court struck down the agreement after determining that it did not legally bind Malaysia to protect the rights of transferred asylum seekers.
Malaysia has made little progress in ensuring respect for human rights in its anti-human trafficking efforts. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act conflates the crimes of trafficking and smuggling, thereby reducing protections for both groups of victims, and making it less likely that trafficking victims will cooperate in identifying and prosecuting perpetrators.
A 2011 program to register all migrant workers lacked transparency regarding which migrant workers will be permitted to remain in Malaysia.
Some 300,000 migrant domestic workers are excluded from key protections under Malaysia’s Employment Act, including limits on working hours, a mandatory day off per week, annual and sick leave, maternity protections, and fair termination of contracts. NGOs and embassies of labor-sending countries handle hundreds of complaints involving unpaid wages, physical and sexual abuse, and forced confinement. Indonesia and Malaysia signed a Memorandum of Understanding that guarantees a weekly day off and allows domestic workers to keep their passports rather than surrendering them to employers. However, the agreement perpetuates recruitment fee structures that leave workers deeply indebted. Malaysia is one of only nine states that did not vote for International Labour Organization Convention No. 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
The National Anti-Drugs Agency maintains over 20 Puspens (drug retention centers) where detainees are held a minimum of two years. Although rates of relapse to drug use have been estimated in Malaysia at 70 to 90 percent, people who are re-arrested as users face long prison terms and caning.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The government refuses to consider repeal of article 377B of the penal code, which criminalizes consensual "carnal intercourse against the order of nature," or to replace article 377C on non-consensual sexual acts with a modern, gender-neutral law on rape.
In July the high court refused to permit Aleesha Farhnan Abdul Aziz, a transgender individual, to change her registered name and gender from male to female. In April Malaysian authorities sent 66 allegedly effeminate schoolboys to camp "to guide them back to the right path."
On November 3 police banned Seksualiti Merdeka, a festival held annually since 2008 to celebrate the rights of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, as a threat to public order.
Freedom of Religion
Malaysia's constitution affirms the country is a secular state that protects religious freedom for all, but treatment of religious minorities continues to raise concerns. On August 3, 2011, Selangor state religious authorities raided a Methodist church where an annual charity dinner was being held. The authorities alleged that there had been unlawful proselytization of the Muslims present at the event but presented no evidence to support their allegations.
Nazri Aziz, de facto law minister, said that since Islam allows underage marriage, the government "can't legislate against it."
Key International Actors
The United States continues to exercise significant influence in Malaysia through expanding links in trade and investment, military-to-military ties, and cooperation in regional security. When Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassim visited Washington in January 2011, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized the "positive track" of the growing bilateral relationship and suggested the possibility of a US presidential visit. She also urged a fair trial for Anwar Ibrahim.
Malaysia continued to have close ties with China and agreed to a request by Beijing in August to summarily return to China a group of ethnic Uighurs in Malaysia despite the likelihood that they would face torture and ill-treatment. Eleven were sent back while five remain in Malaysia.
Malaysia continued to lead efforts to stymie the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Committee on Migrant Workers to negotiate a legally binding instrument for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers.
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