Candidates should focus on human rights issues
Amnesty International Malaysia interim ED Gwen Lee

By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

Candidates campaigning for the 14th General Election (GE14) should consider human rights issues as among their main priority and commit to repeal or amends laws that are used to particularly curb the freedom of expression.

Amnesty International Malaysia interim ED Gwen Lee (picture) said candidates should also push for the country’s commitment to end capital punishment and deaths in custody, while upholding and protecting the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, indigenous people, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals (LGBTI).

The suggestions were made via “Malaysia: 8-Point Human Rights Agenda for GE14 Election Candidates” that was launched yesterday. The document is dedicated to Malaysian parliamentary candidates who are contesting in the election.

“We aim to submit a digital copy and mail a physical copy of the human rights agenda to every election candidate who will be running in the upcoming GE14.

“We believe that there is a significant opportunity for election candidates elected to the Parliament to bring positive changes to the human rights situation in Malaysia, and hope they will listen to our call,” Lee said.

The agenda outlines eight human rights concerns that need to be addressed. It stated that politicians should work on freedom of expression while ensuring the freedom of association and assembly; respecting the freedom of movement — abolishing the death penalty; preventing deaths in custody, torture and other ill-treatment; protecting asylum seekers and refugees; respecting and protecting the rights of LGBTI people; and recognising indigenous peoples’ rights.

Lee said Amnesty International also urges all parliamentary seat candidates to commit to the restoration of respect and the protection of human rights in Malaysia. She said in the past year, Malaysia had witnessed restrictive laws on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly continue to be used to harass, detain and prosecute peaceful critics.

“With the Anti Fake News Act now in force, we could see a heavier crackdown on dissent with severe punishments and fines.

“This new law, as well as others which stifle freedom of speech, including the Sedition Act, Communication and Multimedia Act, and the Printing Press and Publication Act, must be repealed or amended to ensure they are in line with international human rights laws, standards and conventions,” she explained.

Amnesty International is also calling for the end of arbitrary travel bans against human rights defenders and other peaceful dissenters

Lee cited a July 2017 ruling by the Court of Appeal which stated that the government has absolute discretion to bar any citizen from travelling abroad without needing to provide a reason.

Amnesty International also calls for election candidates to focus on protecting asylum seekers and refugees. She said that Malaysia has continued to violate the international prohibition against refoulement by forcibly returning refugees and asylum-seekers to countries where they face serious human rights violations.

“Malaysia has a long standing history of confining refugees, such as those from Myanmar and Bangladesh, in detention centres with appalling poor conditions as well as not providing them basic human rights such as education and employment.”