BERITA DAILY LETTER: From Latheefa Koya, via e-mail

I refer to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said’s recent announcement that the government is launching the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) in March of this year.

She was quoted as saying that the NHRAP is the ‘PM’s legacy’ and lauded his administration for being ‘open and progressive’ towards law reform.

The idea that Najib Razak’s legacy is one of upholding human rights is simply preposterous. Since the NHRAP was approved by the Cabinet in October 2012, his administration has not taken any steps to strengthen human rights in the country, and has in fact taken regressive steps by continuously targeting dissidents and political opponents.

Najib had also promised to repeal the Sedition Act in 2012, right before the 13th General Election, supposedly as part of his reform agenda to develop a progressive democracy in Malaysia. However, not only did he go back on his repeated promises to repeal the Sedition Act, this archaic legislation is still being actively used today to crackdown on political dissidents and others who dare to criticise the government and his administration.

See for example the sedition cases against Zunar, Adam Adli, Tian Chua, Safwan Anang, Hishamuddin Rais, R Sivarasa, N Surendran etc.

Other than the Sedition Act, numerous other oppressive laws such as the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA), Communication and Multimedia Act (CMA), Printing Presses and Publications Act as well as certain provisions under the Penal Code are still actively being used by his administration to harass and intimidate dissidents and political opponents.

Recently, Tun Dr  Siti Hasmah, a 91-year-old woman, was even questioned by the police under the Public Assembly Act over women’s rights rally that ended more than four months ago.

Under the CMA, hundreds of Malaysians have been arrested, investigated, charged and even jailed for simply mocking the prime minister and his administration, the most notable cases are: Fahmi Reza, who depicted Najib as a clown; Sivarasa on a mock Time magazine cover of Najib as the second on the most corrupt list; Zaid Ibrahim who criticised Najib in his blog; and Syarul Ema (aka Ratu Naga) who criticised Najib on Facebook over the then Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

See also the case of Bilqis Hijjas who was charged over a few yellow balloons which allegedly “insulted” the prime minister and his wife.

How can anyone seriously claim Najib’s legacy in human rights when he has allowed these charges to be made against the people of Malaysia for simply mocking him? This is simply outrageous and quite shameless.

While the objective of the NHRAP is to come up with a standard operation procedure for government enforcement agencies to uphold human rights in the execution of their duties, and yet, these very same agencies – the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the police, the Attorney General’s Chambers – have continuously abused and threatened fundamental liberties by enforcing politically motivated cases against dissidents and political opponents of the government while not applying the same standards if they involved supporters of the government.

See for example the blatant double standards and the numerous times pro government individuals like Ibrahim Ali, Ali Tinju, Jamal Yunos and the eight people including the son of deputy minister Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (who were only charged under the Minor Offences Act when they attempted to assault MP Khalid Samad on Parliament grounds) have escaped serious criminal charges when they have committed much more serious offences.

The NHRAP is nothing more than a political show that does not have any legal or binding effect. The efficacy of the NHRAP would solely depend on the political will and whim of Najib’s administration and judging from their previous track record and action, the NHRAP is doomed to fail.

If indeed Najib is truly serious in upholding human rights and making it his legacy, he can take the first step by ensuring that all existing charges under oppressive laws like the Sedition Act, CMA and PAA are withdrawn and further steps taken to repeal these laws.

Until and unless this is done, any talk of Najib’s human rights legacy is nothing but a sham.

Latheefa Koya is a lawyer and central committee member of PKR

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