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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Petition to stop judicial harassment against Jannie Lasimbang

24 January 2016

Y.A.B Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak Prime Minister, Government of Malaysia Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia Main Block, Perdana Putra Building Federal Government Administrative Centre, 62502 Putrajaya Malaysia

Subject: Petition to stop judicial harassment against Jannie Lasimbang

Honorable Prime Minister,

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, condemn the ongoing judicial harassment and intimidation against Ms. Jannie Lasimbang, a prominent human rights and indigenous rights leader, and call on the Malaysian Government authorities to immediately drop all charges laid against her. We affirm that the targeted prosecution of Ms. Lasimbang, among other rights activists, is indicative of the closing space for civil society in Malaysia. We urge the Government to put an end to such prosecution and uphold the values of democracy and human rights.

Ms. Lasimbang is one of the former vice-chairpersons of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0), which is a campaign endorsed by over 60 Malaysian NGOs seeking electoral reforms and promotion of democratic rights in Malaysia. She is the first person to be charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 (PAA) for her role in organizing the fourth series of peaceful assemblies of (Bersih 4.0). The assemblies were held in major cities in Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, on 29 and 30 August 2015. There were subsequent assemblies in over 70 cities around the world in support of the main assemblies in Malaysia.

The overnight rally in Kota Kinabalu had more than 3,000 people in attendance but ended two hours shy of its 24-hour target after a police barricade stopped some 1,000 participants of the assembly from walking towards the city. The police had questioned Ms. Lasimbang immediately after the Bersih 4.0 assembly ended, along with along with others for their alleged role in organizing the assembly. She was not arrested; it therefore came as surprise to her to be charged nearly two months later.

Ms. Lasimbang was charged on 21 October 2015 at the Kota Kinabalu Magistrate Court under Section 9(5) of the PAA 2012 for allegedly organizing the Bersih 4.0 assembly at Likas Bay Park without giving a 10-day notice to the city police chief prior to the event, as required under Article 10(c) of the PAA 2012. Ms. Maria Chin Abdullah, the Chairperson of Bersih 2.0 was also later also charged under the same section.

We are informed that although Bersih Sabah had submitted the form required for the 10-day notice, the failure to append a consent letter from the owner of the Likas Bay Park (City Hall) was construed as not giving the 10-day notice.

The Kota Kinabalu Magistrate allowed Ms. Lasimbang bail of RM3,000 (approx. USD 697) with a deposit of RM1,000 (USD 232) for the charge and set the court date for 13 November 2015 for case management and 23 and 24 November 2015 to hear the case. The case management was earlier rescheduled to 20 January, and the hearing to 26 and 27 January 2016. It has since been postponed again without any certain date. We are gravely concerned that if convicted, Ms. Lasimbang faces a maximum fine of RM20,000 (USD 4646) for two counts of the same charge, one for each day of the 2-day event. She has pleaded not guilty.

Ms Lasimbang, a former commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) has also served as a member and chairperson of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), established by the Human Rights Council under the United Nations. Former Secretary General of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, she is currently at the forefront of indigenous rights advocacy in Malaysia as the Secretary General of the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia, also known as Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS).

We affirm that the selective prosecution of Ms. Lasimbang and other activists in Malaysia constitutes violations of national and international human rights obligations of the State, including under UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The Declaration provides that for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels to meet or assemble peacefully (Art. 5(a)). It is the duty of State of Malaysia to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone...against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration” (Art. 12).

We believe the ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Lasimbang and others only aims at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities. Thus, we call on the Malaysian authorities to immediately drop all charges against them and rather engage constructively with the human rights activists for advancement of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Malaysia.


Joan Carling Secretary General  Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)

On behalf of the organizations and individuals listed below S. No. Name of the organization Country 1 Adivai Facilitators Group (AFG) Bangladesh 2 Badhan Hijra Sangha (BHS) Bangladesh 3 Bangladesh Apparels Workers Federation (BAWF) Bangladesh 4 Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BAF) Bangladesh 5 CHT Women Resource Network (WRN-CHT) Bangladesh 6 Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh (EquityBD) Bangladesh 7 JAGO NARI Bangladesh 8 Kapaeeng Foundation (KF) Bangladesh 9 Maleya Foundation Bangladesh 10 Trinamul Unnayan Sangstha (TUS) Bangladesh 11 Zabarang Kalyan Samity (ZKS) Bangladesh 12 Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA) Botswana 13 Unissons-nous pour la Promotion des Batwa (UNIPROBA) Burundi 14 Bunong Indigenous Community Association Cambodia 15 Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Alliance (CIPA) Cambodia 16 Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Organization (CIPO) Cambodia 17 Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA) Cambodia 18 Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) Cambodia 19 Cambodian League for the Promotion & Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) Cambodia 20 Indigenous Rights Active Members (IRAM) Cambodia 21 Peace Institute of Cambodia (PIC) Cambodia 22 Youth for Peace Cambodia (YFP) Cambodia 23 International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) Denmark 24 Initiative for Living Community Action Ethiopia 25 Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM) Fiji 26 Groupe International De Travail Pour Les Peuples Autochtones (GITPA)  France 27 International Council for the Indigenous Peoples of CHT (ICIP-CHT) France
  28 Institute for Ecology and Action Anthropology (INFOE) Germany 29 Adivasi Navjeewan Gathan Navjyoti Agua (ANGNA) India 30 Adivasi Women's Network India 31 Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union (APVVU) India 32 Association for Promotion of Sustainable Development, Hisar India 33 Borok Peoples Human Rights Organisation (BPHRO) India 34 Borosa Foundation for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights India 35 Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur India 36 Gram Bharati Samiti (GBS) India 37 Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ICITP) India 38 Indigenous Women Children Foundation (IWCF)  India 39 Jana Vikas India 40 Karbi Human Rights Watch (KHRW) India 41 Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) India 42 People's Joint Action Committee for Boroland Movement (PJACBM) India 43 Sammajik Seva Sadan India 44 Zo Indigenous Forum India 45 Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN) Indonesia 46 Inspirator Muda Nusantara Indonesia 47 Peacebuilding Institute (Institut Titian Perdamaian - ITP) Indonesia 48 Sawit Watch Indonesia 49 Sehjira Deaf Foundation Indonesia 50 SOS Children’s Villages Indonesia Indonesia 51 Yayasan LINTAS NUSA Batam Indonesia 52 Yayasan Perlindungan Insani Indonesia 53 “SOciety for New Initiatives and Activities” for a Just New World Italy 54 Community Resource and Development Center Kenya 55 Indigenous Livelihoods Enhancement Partners (ILEPA)  Kenya 56 Indigenous Peoples National Steering Committee on Climate Change (IPNSCCC) Kenya 57 Mainyoito Pastoralists Integrated Development Organization (MPIDO) Kenya 58 Sengwer Indigenous Peoples Programme Kenya 59 Aliran Kesedaran Negara Malaysia 60 All Women's Action Society (AWAM) Malaysia 61 Borneo Resources Institute (BRIMAS) Malaysia 62 Building Indigenous Initiatives in Heritage (BiiH) Malaysia 63 Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) Malaysia 64 Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) Malaysia 65 Institute for Development of Alternative Living (IDEAL) Malaysia
Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) (with membership comprising 105 community organizations) Malaysia 67 Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (TAHABAS) Malaysia 68 LLG Cultural Development Centre Malaysia
  69 Malaysian Trader Union Congress (MTUC) Sabah Malaysia 70 Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET) Malaysia 71 Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI) Malaysia 72 PACOS Trust  Malaysia 73 Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER) Malaysia 74 Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PANAP) Malaysia 75 Pusat Komuniti Malaysia (KOMAS) Malaysia 76 Rise of Sarawak Efforts (R.O.S.E.)  Malaysia 77 Sahabat Rakyat Malaysia 78 Sarawak Dayak Iban Association Malaysia 79 Sarawak Indigenous Youth Network (SIYN) Malaysia 80 SAVE Rivers Malaysia 81 Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM) Malaysia 82 Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) Malaysia 83 Tenaganita Malaysia 84 TObpinai NIngkokoton koBUruon kampuNG (TONIBUNG) Malaysia 85 Agencia Internacional de Prensa Indígena (AIPIN) México 86 Gobi Soil  Mongolia 87 MONFEMNET National Network Mongolia 88 OT Watch Mongolia 89 Steps Withuot Borders NGO Mongolia 90 Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP) Myanmar 91 Burma Partnership Myanmar 92 Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO) Myanmar 93 SHANAH Myanmar 94 Spectrum Myanmar 95 Women Peace Network-Arakan Myanmar 96 Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa Namibia 97 Active Society Nepal (ASN) Nepal 98 Ageing Nepal  Nepal 99 Bahing Kirat Mulukhim Nepal 100 Bahing Kirat Mulukhim Women Union Depart Nepal 101 Bote Adibasi Janajati Samuha Nepal 102 Center for Indigenous People's Research and Development (CIPRED) Nepal 103 Chula Chuli UNESCO Club (CUSC) Nepal 104 Community Empowerment and Social Justice Foundation (CEmSoJ) Nepal
105 Federation of Nepalese Indigenous Nationalities Journalists (FONIJ) Nepal
106 Forum for Public Awareness Rural Development and Environmental Conservation (FPARE) Nepal 107 Garivi Unmulan tatha Sahayog Anusandhan Kendra Nepal Nepal 108 Hamro Mechi Samajik Sanstha Nepal
 109 Hurhure Yuwa Club Nepal 110 Indigenous Nationalities Single Women Network (INSWN) Nepal 111 Indigenous Nationalities Women Youth Network (INWYN) Nepal 112 Indigenous Women League Nepal 113 Janauthan Manch Nepal 114 Kanchangjangha Women's Development Group Nepal 115 Karani Community Development Centre Nepal 116 Kathriya Society Nepal Nepal 117 Kirat Chamling Association (KCA) Nepal 118 Kirat Chamling Language Culture Development Association (KCLCDA) Nepal 119 Kirat Chamling Youth Society (KCYS) Nepal 120 Kirat Welfare Society (KWS) Nepal 121 Kirat Youth Society (KYS) Nepal 122 Kulung Mingma Guskham Nepal
Lawyers' Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP) Nepal 124 Lok Kalyan Nepal Nepal 125 National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal (NIDWAN) Nepal 126 National Indigenous Women Forum Nepal 127 National indigenous Women's Federation (NIWF) Nepal 128 Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) Nepal 129 Nepal Indigenous Disabled Association (NIDA) Nepal 130 Nepal Manav Adhikar Samaj Nepal 131 Nepal Rana Tharu Samaj Nepal 132 Nepal Tamang Women Ghedung Nepal 133 NGO-Federation of Nepalese Indigenous Nationalities (NGO-FONIN) Nepal 134 Pahadi Samaj Bikas Kendra Nepal 135 People Unity Youth Society (PUYS) Nepal 136 Prangbola Chhar Nham  Nepal 137 Prasamsha Samudaik Bikas Kendra Nepal 138 Rasuwa Janajati Development Committee Nepal 139 Rasuwa Tamang Samaj  Nepal 140 Routa Welfare Community Center Nepal 141 Shilichong Club Development Centre Nepal 142 Shilichong Club Social Development Centre Nepal 143 Siluti Namphunyak Paryatan Bikas Kendra Nepal 144 Thakali Women Association Nepal 145 Tharu Innovative Youth Society Nepal 146 Unity Society Nepal 147 Youth Awareness Society Nepal (YASN) Nepal 148 Youth Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (YFIN)  Nepal 149 Nga Tirairaka o Ngati Hine New
  Zealand 150 Centro para la Autonomía y Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas (CADPI) Nicaragua 151 Rainforest Foundation Norway Noway 152 Advocacy, Research, Training and Services (ARTS) Foundation Pakistan 153 Pakistan Development Alliance (PDA) Pakistan 154 Youth Association for Development (YAD) Pakistan
155 Porgera Alliance
Papua New Guinea 156 Asociacion ANDES Peru 157 Center of Indigenous Cultures of Peru (CHIRAPAQ) Peru 158 Continental Network of Indigenous Women on Americas (ECMIA) Peru 159 Asia Indigenous Women Network (AIWN) Philippines 160 BAI-Indigenous Women Network in the Philippines Philippines 161 Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) Philippines 162 IBON International Philippines 163 Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamyan ng Pilipinas (KATRIBU) Philippines 164 National Federation of Peasant Women (AMIHAN) Philippines 165 Tebtebba - Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research  Philippines 166 Urban Poor Resource Center of the Philippines Philippines 167 Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North (CSIPN) Russia 168 Batwa Foundation Rwanda 169 MARUAH Singapore Singapore 170 Community Development Services (CDS) Sri Lanka 171 Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) Switzerland 172 Global Bersih Switzerland 173 Central Taiwan Ping-Pu Indigenous Groups Youth Alliance Taiwan 174 Papora Indigenous Peoples Association (PIDA) Taiwan 175 Papora Indigenous Youth Council (PIYC) Taiwan
Taiwan Associaton for Rights Advancement for Ping Pu Plains. Aborigine Peoples (TARA-Ping Pu) Taiwan 177 Takao Indigenous Makatao Council (TIMC) Taiwan
Parakuiyo Pastoralists Indigenous Community Development Organisation (PAICODEO) Tanzania 179 Asian Institute for Human Rights (AIHR) Thailand 180 FORUM-ASIA (Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development) Thailand 181 Indigenous Peoples' Foundation for Education and Environment (IPF) Thailand 182 Inter Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT) Thailand 183 Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT) Thailand 184 People's Empowerment Foundation (PEF) Thailand 185 Sustainable Development Foundation Thailand 186 TEA - togetherness for equality and action Thailand 187 Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation (TCR) Thailand
188 Covalima Youth Center (CYC)
189 Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP)
TimorLeste 190 ARTICLE 19 UK 191 Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation UK 192 Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) UK 193 Boat People SOS (BPSOS) USA 194 International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) USA 195 Pivot Point USA 196 Centre for Sustainable Development in Mountainous areas (CSDM) Vietnam 197 Centre of Research and Development in Upland Areas (CERDA) Vietnam 198 Vietnam Indigenous Knowledge network (VTIK) Vietnam 199 Vietnamese Women for Human Rights Vietnam 200 ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)  201 ASEAN Youth Forum  202 Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)  203 Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC)  204 Indigenous Peoples' Biocultural Climate Change Assessment Initiative  205 International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples   S. No.  Name of the individual Country 1 Dr. Wilton Littlechild, IPC Canada 2 Elizabeth Mobinsil Malaysia 3 Kely Jitilon Malaysia 4 Suzalie Mohamad  Malaysia 5 Winni Jimis Malaysia 6 William Nicholas Gomes UK 7 Allison Silverman

Submitted via email to  Y.A.B. Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister, Government of Malaysia, Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Main Block, Perdana Putra Building, Federal Government Administrative Centre, 62502 Putrajaya, Malaysia. Email:

Copied to l Y.A.B. Dato' Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Bin Hamidi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister's Office, Level 4 West Block, Perdana Putra Building, Federal Government Administrative Centre, 62502 Putrajaya, Malaysia. Email:

l Y.B. Puan Hajah Nancy Binti Shukri, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Level 9, Bangunan Hal Ehwal Undang-Undang, Presint 3, Federal Government Administrative Centre, 62692 Putrajaya, Malaysia. Email:  l Tan Sri Haji Ismail Bin Haji Omar, Inspector General of Police, Ibu Pejabat Polis Diraja Malaysia, 50560 Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Email:  l Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, Attorney General Attorney General's Chambers No. 45, Persiaran Perdana Precint 4 62100, W.P Putrajaya, Malaysia. Email:  l Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), Tingkat 11, Menara TH Perdana, Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Email:; hasmyagam@suhakam

Monday, 11 January 2016


Indra, Ivy & Deepa - (file photo- Malay Mail July 24, 2014)
PROHAM fully supports each individual’s absolute right to profess the religion of his or her choice.  However, in a marriage when the converting spouse takes away the rights of the non - converting spouse, the law must not only offer redress but uphold the rights of members of the family whose rights are affected.

In the case of Indira Gandhi her rights as a wife and mother under civil law came to nought when she was told that courts accepted the unilateral conversion of her children. In the case of Indira Gandhi too, the rights of her two children were overlooked if not ignored.

The best interest of the child must be central principle to any decision pertaining to the child’s welfare, education and religion.

PROHAM urges the relevant authorities not to ignore Malaysia’s 1995 ratifications of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).  Each of these treaties contains unequivocal provisions that oblige governments, to ensure that each parent has equal rights (and equal responsibilities) in raising their children.

There is furthermore a guarantee in Section 5 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1961, which gives each parent equal guardianship rights over the children, as well as Section 11 which provides for the courts to consider the wishes of both parents, where applicable.  A mother’s equal right to guardianship, to make decisions relating to long term and at times irreversible issues such as religion, welfare and education and must be fully upheld and protected, one parent’s consent cannot suffice.

Another important consideration is that rights conferred to a woman under civil law in her legal position as a wife and mother cannot be erased and retreated in favour of another interest, non-retrogression is an essential principle in constitutional law.

PROHAM concurs with women groups as outlined in their 2007 JAG Memorandum “Safeguard Rights of Wives and Children upon Conversion of Husbands to Islam” whereby the call to uphold specific rights were raised, namely:

(a)      The right of married non-Muslim women to continue to rely on the rights and obligations contained in a civil law marriage agreement when their spouses convert to Islam;

(b)      The right to have all issues relating to a civil law marriage settled according to civil laws and adjudicated only in civil courts;

(c)       The right to petition for divorce on the basis that conversion to Islam has led to a breakdown of her marriage;

(d)      Upon divorce, the right to receive maintenance, for herself and her children, as provided for in the civil laws;

(e)      The equal right, as a parent, to decide on matters relating to her children’s upbringing;

(f)        The continued right to inherit from a family member who converts to Islam; and

(g)      The right to be informed of her spouse’s conversion to Islam.

PROHAM urges the Cabinet to muster political will to uphold its own decision made on April 22, 2009, that there should be no unilateral conversion of children and that the children of parents where one parent chooses to convert to Islam must continue to be raised in the common religion at the time of the marriage.

​Released on behalf of PROHAM by: ​

Ms Ivy Josiah, Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, & Datuk A Vaithilingam

Jan 12, 2016

Saturday, 2 January 2016

We’re turning back human rights clock if NSC Bill becomes law, says Hasmy

Putrajaya will be turning back the country’s “human rights clock” if the National Security Council Bill becomes law, outgoing Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam says.

In an interview before the end of his tenure in April, Hasmy said the state of human rights in the past five years has not changed, as positive strides such as repealing the Internal Security Act, (ISA) were subsequently nullified by enacting newer laws that choked civil liberties.
Hasmy’s comments cap a dark year for the state of Malaysia’s human rights as Putrajaya strengthened laws which further stifled free speech and authorities expanded crackdowns against critics of the Najib administration. “As for now, I’m afraid we are not making much progress. While there were some positive developments, such as the removal of ISA, there have also been developments that are putting back the human rights clock.
“(These include) the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (POTA) and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), along with the continuation of the Sedition Act (now strengthened) and the passage of the NSC Bill.
“If the bill becomes law, it will put us as a nation even further back when the rest of the world is moving forward in the context of human rights and good governance,” Hasmy told The Malaysian Insider.
The NSC Bill, which was bulldozed through the Dewan Rakyat and passed by the Dewan Negara, allows the council chaired by the prime minister to declare security zones.
This power has been described by civil society as “emergency-like powers” and contravened the Federal Constitution, since only the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has the power to declare an emergency.
Critics say the security bill gives unfettered powers to a sitting prime minister without the need to get a royal consent during national crises.
The council can also authorise searches, seizures of property and arrests in security areas without warrants.
LGBT issues the most difficult
Hasmy said LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-, trans-sexual) rights would also be a challenging issue which the new commissioners and society needed to deal with seriously and carefully.
Although it was an extremely complicated issue, a national discussion has to be had to understand and promote a degree of tolerance towards the community, he said.
“This is highly sensitive issue in Malaysia, which must be handled with great care and prudence so as not to affect the progression of human rights agenda in the country.
“The commission will continue to handle this challenge through greater dialogue and engagement with the parties concerned in the hope that over time, there would be greater understanding or tolerance resulting in fewer, if not zero incidence of harassment and intimidation and better respect for personal liberties and privacy.
“I must admit this issue is one of the most difficult issues to be handled by the commission with no easy solution in sight.”
Hasmy said another challenge was to improve the understanding of human rights in Malaysia where many still looked at them through the lens of ethnicity, culture and religion.
Malaysians have to change their mindsets and attitudes towards human rights, he said.
Suhakam has, in the past, also taken Putrajaya to task for conflicting positions on human rights, as the government tries to burnish its international image while making political statements at home. – January 3, 2016.
- See more at:

Friday, 1 January 2016




— While we are celebrating the new year, let us pause to take stock of how Malaysians appear to have been increasingly pitted against laws — those that are enforced, those that are ruled on, those that are created — meant to help keep the peace.

1. The triple whammy of laws for more power and less rights

* National Security Council Bill  (NSC)

Malaysians were taken by surprise and slapped rudely with a law where the government — backed by the full force of the state — will have Emergency-like or warzone-like powers against its citizens. This law is aimed at securing a hazily-defined “national security” for the good of Malaysians, especially when there is a threat in an area that can be unilaterally declared a “security area” by the prime minister on the advice of the National Security Council. For those living in a security area where curfew can be imposed, government personnel can also arrest anyone without warrants. They can also conduct searches and seizures without warrant, take over and demolish private property and order a person to leave the area. And this lasts for a maximum of six months. Or possibly indefinitely, according to the decree of the government, who cannot be challenged in court at all if they carried out their duties in “good faith.” The court can also set aside inquests to review the cause of death of a person who died in a security area as a result of operations by security forces.

Status: Tabled on December 1, passed by Dewan Rakyat on December 3 (10.55pm) after nearly seven hours of debates, passed by Dewan Negara on December 22. Will come into effect when the Yang di-Pertuan Agong gives his approval and it is gazetted.

* Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA)

This new anti-terror Act is on top of the three-year-old Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, the expansion of the Prevention of Crime Act’s scope to cover terrorists and other legal provisions that are meant to counter terrorism. It is almost a case of the return of the undead as the Act has startling similarities to the now-abolished Internal Security Act 1960, except that a suspect can be detained without trial up to 60 days initially and up to a further two years instead of indefinitely, and that a Prevention of Terrorism Board instead of the Home Minister will decide on your fate, based on the investigation of an inquiry officer who may seek evidence without following the usual laws. And as a result of an inquiry where a lawyer cannot be present to defend you, the board can decide to give you a maximum two-year detention order or a maximum five-year restricted residence order — orders which may be renewed. The law specifically says the courts have no power at all to review the board’s decisions, except when procedures governing such decisions are breached. Can laws ever be a magic bullet to all our problems and can creating more laws put an end to terrorism, or would we be better served through education and the inculcation of the right values?

Status: Tabled on March 30, passed by Dewan Rakyat on April 7 (2.25am) after 14 hours of debate, passed by Dewan Negara on April 23. Royal assent was granted on May 28 and POTA came into force on September 1.

* Amendments to strengthen the Sedition Act 1948

In public forums nowadays, a common joke by speakers all too aware of the price of speaking their minds goes like this: “You are free to speak, but you may not be free after you speak.” For a crime where your intention is irrelevant and where virtually anything you say can be seditious, judges will no longer have the option of fining you but must sentence you to between three to seven years in jail. If someone damages property or hurts others because they were “incited” by what you say, you get three to 20 years in jail, regardless of whether you are a minor or a first-time offender. Perhaps to avert past embarrassments of those facing sedition trials running away from the country, judges will also have to grant requests to seize passports of a person who has yet to be found guilty. Apart from being made to remove online seditious remarks, you can also be ordered not to touch any electronic device.

Status: Tabled on April 7, passed by Dewan Rakyat on April 10 (2.30am) after 12 hours of debate, passed by Dewan Negara on April 28. Royal assent given on May 28. Yet to come into force.
If you see a pattern here, it could be this: The granting of greater powers to the government with greater potential of abuse and the stripping away of protection of freedoms for Malaysian citizens. And even the judges can’t help you or exercise their discretion in many instances, because the laws passed by Parliament say they have no powers to do so.

Are these laws that were passed with frightening efficiency that bad? Putrajaya has insisted that it needs the laws to adequately and swiftly protect Malaysians from legitimate threats and dangers, such as the Islamic State (IS) terrorists who have already enticed some locals away to join in their “war.”

2. Stifling dissent or enforcing the peace?

2015 has been yet another year where civil society has criticised the authorities for alleged selective action and prosecution, with March alone easily winning the title of Month of Arrests in terms of numbers and high-profile nabbings — including over 80 protesters of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on March 23.  Among others, the overnight detention of PKR leader Nurul Izzah Anwar over an allegedly seditious Parliamentary speech (March 16), the arrests of five individuals from the media industry over a The Malaysian Insider report (March 30), the March 27 arrest of activist Hishamuddin Rais by plainclothes policemen ahead of a rally, the midnight and pre-dawn arrests of Opposition politicians Mohamad Sabu and Khalid Samad by 20 policemen and police in a convoy of five cars respectively drew the eyebrows of many.

The Sedition Act continued to be widely used last year with 14 individuals prosecuted and at least 38 reportedly investigated, exceeding the reported 12 prosecutions and 24 investigations under the same law in 2014, while an offence under the Communications and Multimedia Act against the online posting of remarks that are offensive or would hurt the feelings of others was used to probe or charge more than 10 people last year.

3. The courts that uphold the Federal Constitution

In 2015, we see the Federal Court saying in publisher Ezra Zaid’s case that a Selangor Islamic law restricting the constitutional freedom of speech remains valid because of Islam’s position and the alleged offence’s link to Islamic precepts (September 28), telling Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom that the pre-Merdeka Sedition Act is Constitutional as it does not fully restrict the right to freedom of speech (October 6), setting aside a lower court’s order that struck out a Negri Sembilan Shariah law against cross-dressing, simply because the three transgenders had not directly approached the Federal Court for their Constitutional challenge in the first place (October 8).

The Federal Court also dismissed three Gerakan members’ Constitutional challenge against Kelantan’s hudud law effectively because none of them had stated they were Muslims to show they would be affected by the Islamic penal code (October 20), while the Court of Appeal reportedly took the unusual route of disregarding an earlier decision by it that found it unconstitutional to criminalise rally organisers who fail to give a 10-day advance notice of an assembly (October 1).

Retired Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mohd Hishamudin Mohd Yunus describes our current situation best, with his observation that these cases show the courts’ great reluctance to strike down federal laws or state laws that are unconstitutional, while also effectively denying or making Malaysians’ fundamental liberties mere illusions by giving wide interpretations to restrict these freedoms.

“Has the judiciary forsaken its sacred role as the guardian and protector of the Federal Constitution and fundamental liberties? Can the citizens, in particular, the minorities, look to the judiciary to defend their fundamental liberties? Have our courts become meek and subservient to the Legislature and the Executive, instead of asserting their judicial power and independence in upholding the rule of law?” he said at a public lecture on December 9 when listing out the disturbing questions arising from these cases.

So where does all that has happened in the legal sphere last year leaves us?

We are at the brink of a new year, aware that the boundaries of our conduct have been drawn closer for the greater good of the country. Perhaps we can end with a wish, that the Federal Constitution protecting all Malaysians be upheld and that the law and justice be tempered with mercy and be meted out proportionately to the threat or offence at hand.

- See more at:



When Datuk Seri Najib Razak was appointed prime minister on April 3, 2009, he took over from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who had fallen from grace after Barisan Nasional suffered its worst-ever loss in the 2008 general election. As the sixth prime minister, Najib’s ascent to the post also came at a time of increasing demands by Malaysian voters for political and electoral reforms.

Following the 2011 Bersih 2.0 street rally in Kuala Lumpur, public and international backlash against the high number of civilian arrests and incidences of violence forced Najib to pledge to review some of the country’s laws seen as obstructions to civil liberties.  Detractors, however, say the some of these reforms have not enhanced, but further eroded civil liberties. Here are some key laws that were abolished, amended or introduced in the past six years under Najib’s leadership:

Peaceful Assembly Act 2012

The Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA) was passed in December 2011 and was the first proposed law to be tabled after the Bersih 2.0 rally. Meant to facilitate more organised forms of public demonstrations, the act replaces provisions in the Police Act which required a police permit for such gatherings. Instead, organisers must notify authorities 10 days before a rally and adhere to restrictions and conditions imposed by police.

The PAA’s provision on punishment for rally organisers who fail to comply with the 10-day notice has been a contentious one in the courts, with the Court of Appeals at first ruling that it was unconstitutional, but then reversing its earlier ruling by a different bench in October.

Internal Security Act (ISA)

Passed in 1960 to counter a communist insurgency in Malaya, critics have long claimed that the ISA – which allowed for indefinite detention without trial – was used instead to detain thousands of Malaysians purely for posing political threats to BN.

In 2011, Najib promised to abolish the ISA and replace it with two other preventive security laws. The act was repealed in June 2012. Najib’s administration also lifted three emergency proclamations in 2012, rendering the Emergency Public Order and Prevention of Crime Ordinance 1969 (EO) void. Critics said the EO was as draconian and inhumane as the ISA as it also allowed for detainees to be held for two years without trial.

The Bersih 4 rally in August 2015 called on Datuk Seri Najib Razak to resign as prime minister. Shortly after, the organisers, opposition politicians and civil society leaders were arrested. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, January 2, 2016.   The Bersih 4 rally in August 2015 called on Datuk Seri Najib Razak to resign as prime minister. Shortly after, the organisers, opposition politicians and civil society leaders were arrested. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, January 2, 2016. Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

The Security Offences Act (Sosma), like its predecessor the ISA, provides for special measures by the authorities in tackling security offences. However, Sosma differs from the ISA in that those charged are accorded a trial in the High Court.  Approved by Parliament on April 17, 2012, the legislation has been criticised for its lack of clear definition for punishable offences, such as “sabotage”, and posing a threat to national security, thus giving room for abuse by those in authority.

Printing Presses and Publications Act 2012

The Printing Presses and Publications (Amendments) Bill 2012 was approved in April 2012, doing away with the need for annual printing permits. Publishers can also challenge in court any decision by the Home Ministry to revoke or suspend permits.

Universities and University Colleges Act 2012

Amendments to the 1971 Universities and University Colleges Act were made in 2012, which lifted a ban on student participation in politics and public gatherings. While students are still barred from acting on behalf of political parties, the amendments meant students could now express their opinions and make statements on political or academic issues.

Section 124B of the Penal Code 2012

In 2012, amendments to the Penal Code were tabled in Parliament to include Section 124B to deal with violent offences leading to activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

However, 17 people were detained in August 2015 under Section 124B for allegedly organising a sit-in outside Parliament, prompting critics and rights groups to claim that the new law was being used to silence political dissent. This section was also used in investigations into opposition members who have criticised 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and against some Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers questioned over alleged information leaks on probes into 1MDB.

Section 114A of the Evidence Act 2012

Amendments to the Evidence Act were also passed in 2012, introducing Section 114A which enables authorities to hold publishers and owners of websites accountable for seditious, defamatory or libellous postings. Critics of the amendment say the new section is an affront to Internet freedom, as it shifts the burden of proof of wrongdoing to the Internet user and publisher, rather than the prosecution.

Sedition Act 2015

In 2012, during a speech in Kuala Lumpur, Najib promised to abolish the Sedition Act 1948, to be replaced by unity legislation. However, when he addressed the Umno general assembly two years later, the party president vowed instead to strengthen the act to protect the sanctity of Islam and other religions.  In April 2015, amendments to the Sedition Act were passed by Parliament to make it seditious to insult any religion, while decriminalising criticism of the government and judiciary.

However, rights groups say the amended law represents a greater threat to human rights and free speech, citing the increased jail term for sedition cases to seven years from three, and the right of the government to demand a retraction of supposedly seditious material from online and print media as just some of the provisions that make the act an easy tool for abuse by authorities.

Human rights group Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) recently released data showing a five-fold increase in 2015 from 2014 of individuals investigated, detained or charged under the controversial law. There were 220 individuals or cases under the Sedition Act in 2015 compared with 44 in 2014. In 2013, there were 11 cases and eight in 2012. The amendments are not yet in force.

Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015

The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was passed in April 2015 and came into effect in September last year. The act empowers authorities to detain terror suspects without trial, and disallows judicial reviews in any court. An initial detention period of up to 59 days can also be extended up to two years by the Prevention of Terrorism Board, which has power above the courts.

National Security Council Bill 2015

On December 22, 2015, the National Security Council Bill was passed to tackle violent extremism, allowing the council chaired by the prime minister to declare any area in the country as a “security zone”, and accords authorities powers similar to emergency powers. The bill allows for the arrest, search and seizure of citizens and property in security zones. Critics say the security bill gives unfettered powers to a sitting prime minister without the need to get a royal consent during national crises. – January 2, 2016. 

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