Malaysia took a “significant” step backwards in human rights in 2013, a year that appeared to mark the end of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s promises of reform, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
The US-headquartered organisation’s annual report said Malaysia’s rights situation deteriorated sharply after Najib’s now 57-year-old ruling coalition was stung by a historic setback in elections in May.
“The election was followed by a significant deterioration in human rights and the apparent abrupt end to Prime Minister Najib’s oft-touted reform agenda,” the report said.
“Relevant developments in the second half of 2013 included passage of new and revised laws again permitting administrative detention without trial, new arrests of opposition activists for organising peaceful protests, and repression of political speech.”
Authorities in December suspended a business magazine after it published an article alleging huge sums were being spent on foreign travel for Najib and other expenses.
The opposition has branded Najib’s earlier reform pledge as a cynical ploy to secure votes ahead of last May’s polls.
The coalition dominated by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) lost the popular vote for the first time ever but clung to power thanks to what critics call widespread parliamentary gerrymandering.
Human Rights Watch also said the government “continued to bring dubious criminal charges against its political opponents,” including prominent activists who face trial for violating the Sedition Act.
source: The Edge