Thursday, December 09, 2010

SUARAM's Malaysian Human Rights Report 2010

SUARAM's 'Malaysian Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010 (also known as the 2010 Malaysian Human Rights Report) is out - but alas it only looks at the broad Federal perspective, without descending to evaluate how the States governed by the Opposition Pakatan Rakyat (Peoples' Coalition) had fared in terms of human rights. It would have been good if we could have all been able to state that human rights are now more recognized and respected in these States, compared to when they were ruled by the coalition ruling the Federal Government, i.e. the UMNO led-BN government.

One criticim that we have been having about ASEAN and some NGOs is that everything is only in English - and not in the local language of the people, and in the case of Malaysia - Bahasa Malaysia (or as some calls it Bahasa Melayu). We hope that this SUARAM report also is available in the languages of the ordinary people.

SUARAM must be congratulated for the good work that they have done in coming out with this report - and we hope that these efforts would continue in years to come. I have copied from a PDF format this report and pasted it below. I am sorry that I have not spend time re-formatting and making it look good but I believe what has been done is sufficient for one to be able to read this report...

Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ................................................................................................ 2
RACISM, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND INTOLERANCE .................................. 4
AGENCIES........................................................................................................................ 9
FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION .............................................................. 12
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION .................................................................................... 16
FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY........................................................................................... 18
TRAFFICKED PERSONS ............................................................................................... 23
LAW AND THE JUDICIARY......................................................................................... 27
SUHAKAM...................................................................................................................... 28
CONCLUSION................................................................................................................. 30
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview

For all Prime Minister Najib Razak’s “1Malaysia” slogan, the year was scarred by
controversies created by racist utterances of civil servants - from schoolteachers to the
assistant Director of the National Civics Bureau (BTN). The government-controlled
Malay-language media continued their racist rants on a regular basis. The government’s
political will to end racial discrimination was lacking, exhibited by its continued refusal
to ratify the Convention for the Eradication of Racial Discrimination.
The year started with a display of religious chauvinism and intolerance over the use of
the word ‘Allah’ by Christians in the country. A total of ten churches and several
mosques were attacked or vandalised in early 2010, apparently in response to the
controversial ruling by Justice Lau Bee Lan, which allowed non-Muslims to use the word
‘Allah’. In the resulting fray, UMNO and UMNO-linked personalities and organisations
berated the non-Muslim community for trying to ‘subvert’ Islam and ‘confuse’ Muslims,
even though non-Muslims in the states of Sabah and Sarawak had been using the word
for generations without any protest from their Muslim brethren.
SUARAM estimates that there are currently over a thousand individuals detained under
various detention-without-trial laws in Malaysia, including 25 individuals detained under
the Internal Security Act. Despite overwhelming public pressure, both domestic and
international, to repeal these laws, the government continues to delay promised reform of
these laws which violate human rights. During the year, the government has even sought
to quell public protests over these laws, as was seen in the arrest of 40 people during the
series of candlelight vigils around the country, demonstrating the government's
unchanging position on detention without trial.
Law enforcement agencies continued to operate with a lack of accountability and with
impunity despite various recommendations made by bodies like the Human Rights
Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and the Royal Commission on the Police. The
police continued the arbitrary use of lethal force in the discharge of their duties – as seen
in the 17 cases of deaths by police shootings and two cases of custodial deaths in 2010
monitored by SUARAM. The official government figures on deaths by police shooting in
2010 are still unavailable, but between 2000 and 2009, there were 279 cases of death by
police shootings. This averages out to 31 deaths a year, with the highest number of police
shooting deaths in 2009 (88 deaths), followed by 2008 (82 deaths)1.
There is further cause for concern since other state agencies besides the police, such as
the MACC, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and the Securities Commission (SC)
have created headlines in 2010 through their extrajudicial roles. During the year, the
inquest into Teoh Beng Hock’s death was on-going; the complaints of torture by
1 “Top 10 facts from the PDRM fatal shootings statistics (2000 – 2009)”,
%E2%80%93-2009/ - Last accessed 5 December 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
Tharmendran against the RMAF and the harassment of journalists by the Securities
Commission were worrying developments for human rights in Malaysia.
After the release of two international reports in 2009 which highlighted the collusion of
Immigration Department authorities in the trafficking of refugees, the government
detained several immigrations officials under the Internal Security Act. However, the
Malaysian Government still refuses to ratify the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status
of Refugees and its 1967 protocol and has not introduced any domestic legislation to
recognise the status of refugees.
The BN government continued to use repressive laws such as the Sedition Act and the
Printing and Publications Act to prevent civil society and the media from raising
legitimate questions. It was not surprising that Malaysia tumbled to 141st position in the
Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF)’s Press Freedom Index for 2010. Books that were
banned and seized included Kim Quek’s “March to Putrajaya” and a collection of
cartoons by popular satirist Zulkiflee Anawar Ulhaque (popularly known as Zunar).
The government continued to use restrictive laws, such as the Official Secrets Act (OSA)
to deny the people access to information needed to make informed choices which affects
their daily lives. This was seen in the ongoing water tariff hike issue between the federal
government, the state government of Selangor and private water concessionaire Syarikat
Bekalan Air Selangor (SYABAS). On the state level, two opposition-held states,
Selangor and Penang, have a Freedom of Information Act in various stages of
implementation, but the federal government has remained silent on the issue and has
refused to acknowledge the need for a Freedom of Information Act. The virtual media
blackout on SUARAM’s pursuit of questions surrounding the murder of Altantuya and
the controversial purchase of the Scorpene submarines during Najib Razak’s tenure as
Defence Minister points to an urgent need for such legislation in the country.
2010 saw several by-elections in the country, with allegations of corruption and misuse of
state funds and facilities by the ruling BN government. The Election Commission (EC)
and MACC have failed to take action on these allegations, the most glaring omission
being the infamous “You help me, I help you” speech made by Najib during the Sibu byelection
in May. A video of Najib’s speech is widely available on Youtube, but it has
failed to elicit any response from the Elections Commission.
Over 100 individuals were arrested in 2010 for exercising their right to assemble
peacefully. A number of peaceful public rallies were forcibly dispersed by the police,
with scores of people arrested, showing a lack of tolerance by the government for any
display of dissent. The most recent incident was the arrest of over 60 individuals –
including Selangor state assemblyperson Dr. Nasir Hashim (Parti Sosialis Malaysia
chairperson) and other state law-makers – for wearing red and participating in a peaceful
assembly on 5 December.
The judiciary continues to disappoint, refraining from making decisions on important
constitutional issues set before it. This year saw at least two such cases - Shamala
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
Sathiyaseelan and S. Kaliammal – in which the court took the easier route in dismissing
their respective appeals on technicalities, thereby denying their right to justice and
ignoring important constitutional issues regarding the jurisdiction between the civil and
syariah courts. Anwar Ibrahim’s ongoing trial for sodomy further illustrates the bias that
some judges display in politically connected cases, with the trial judge denying Anwar’s
legal team access to medical documents and records pertinent to his defence.
SUHAKAM operated without any Commissioners in office between April and June,
creating a backlog of complaints. This exposed the BN government’s lax attitude toward
human rights protection in the country. The current team of Commissioners started off
well by sending monitoring teams to the Anti-ISA vigils in August and the recent water
hike rally in December but some have exposed their ignorance of human rights in their
comments on gender issues. The government’s continued refusal to ratify a number of
core international human rights conventions and their continued refusal to adopt the
commission’s recommendations or even debate SUHAKAM’s findings in Parliament,
raises serious questions on SUHAKAM’s effectiveness. Even a SUHAKAM
Commissioner’s movements can be restricted, as seen in the case of Commissioner
Jannie Lasimbang’s conditional entry permit to Sarawak, which explicitly states that she
should “not be involved directly or indirectly in activities that are detrimental to the
interests of the state” or “associate with organisations that actively instigate or encourage
Sarawak natives to carry out activities that are detrimental to the interests of the state.”
This recent case has also exposed the lack of seriousness of Suhakam in pursuing human
rights in Malaysia. In September 2007, SUARAM submitted a memorandum to
SUHAKAM urging the commission to investigate cases of West Malaysian activists who
had been barred from entering Sarawak and also cases of Sarawakians who had been
prevented from leaving the state. SUHAKAM had promised to right this violation of
human rights but has since not followed up on the case. The recent case of Commissioner
Jannie Lasimbang has merely exposed SUHAKAM’s arbitrariness in its role as defender
of the human rights of all Malaysians.
The “1Malaysia” concept, launched by Najib Razak in his inaugural speech as Prime
Minister on 3 April 2009, continues to be an elusive dream for many Malaysians even as
the ruling government advertises its latest slogan in public spaces.
The government’s refusal to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) while perpetuating policies institutionalising
racial discrimination, such as the “bumiputeras-only” policy of the public sector
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) casts serious doubts on the political will of Najib
Razak’s administration to institute much needed changes.
The landmark ruling on 31 December 2009 in the “Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop
of Kuala Lumpur vs. Menteri Dalam Negeri” saw the High Court lifting the home
minister’s three year ban against the Catholic Church using the word “Allah” to refer to
the Christian God in its weekly publication, The Herald3. However, the Ministry’s
subsequent appeal4 and the protests of various Islamic groups set the stage for a series of
arson attacks on several places of worship5 in the country which came almost
immediately following the court verdict. The Home Ministry had initially banned the
usage of the word, claiming that it would confuse the Muslim majority.
Overt racism continues to be tolerated as was seen in three separate cases; two involving
school principals in Kedah and Johor, who uttered racial slurs at their students; and one
involving National Civics Bureau (BTN) assistant director, Hamim Husin, who referred
to ethnic Indians as “Si Botol” (drunkards) and ethnic Chinese as “Si Mata Sepet” (slanteyed)
6. The government dragged their feet in taking action on complaints lodged against
the three, even after widespread condemnation from various quarters.7 In October, two
months after the incident involving the principals, opposition Democratic Action Party
(DAP) advisor Lim Kit Siang tried to raise an emergency motion in Parliament to
demand an explanation for the delay in action but this was rejected by House Speaker
Pandikar Amin. Although no details were made available, Pandikar said that he had been
informed by the education ministry and Public Services Department (JPA) that action had
already been taken against the two school principals.8 Similarly, de facto Law Minister,
3 “Court rules Catholic Herald can use Allah word”, - 31Dec
2009 - Last accessed 14 November 2010
“Malaysian court strikes down ban”, - Last
accessed 14 November 2010-11-18
“Court: Allah not exclusive to Islam, – Last accessed 12
November 2010
4 “Home Ministry files appeal against ‘Allah’ decision”, –
Last accessed 14 November 2010
5 “Malaysia church torched amid Allah row”,
45233720100107?sp=true – Last accessed 14 Nov 2010
“Two arson bids in Taiping, black paint hurled at Malacca church”, – Last accessed
14 November 2010
6 “I did not make racist remarks, says Hamim”, - Last accessed 14
November 2010
7 “BN Youth want ‘racist’ school principal punished”, -
Last accessed 14 November 2010
8 “Speaker claims ‘racist’ principals already disciplined”,
- Last accessed 14 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
Nazri Aziz also revealed in Parliament that action had been taken against the three civil
servants9 and defended the delay.10
In November, during a Parliamentary session, Defence Minister Zahid Hamidi caused a
controversy by attributing the low numbers of non-Malay recruits in the Malaysian
Armed Forces (ATM) to their low sense of patriotism among other reasons.11 His
statement received widespread condemnation from both sides of the political divide.
Currently there is a Cabinet gag order on any minister openly discussing the issue.12
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Internal Security Act (ISA) which came into
force on 1 August 1960. Following from the mammoth Anti-ISA rally in 2009, this year
saw increased Anti-ISA advocacy and lobbying efforts by civil society groups. Among
them were the Anti-ISA vigils which were held simultaneously in several states on 1
August, 2010. At the international level, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary
Detention (WGAD) which visited Malaysia in June recommended that the Malaysian
government repeals the ISA. Increasing pressure from both the domestic and international
fronts for detention-without-laws to be repealed had earlier prompted Home Minister
Hishammuddin Hussein to announce that the government would amend the ISA.
However, very little information has since been made publicly available. Nor have any
amendments been scheduled to be tabled during the current Parliamentary session.
At the same time, the government has tried to quell growing demands by the public for
these laws to be repealed as was seen in the arrest of 40 people during a series of
candlelight vigils around the country.
In October 2009, Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein had announced that the ISA
would be amended around five contentious areas; namely the length of detention, rights
and treatment given to detainees and their families, the power of the Home Minister in
issuing detention orders, the use of ISA for political reasons, and detention without trial
under the ISA.13 That year ended without any amendments been tabled or made public
9 “Putrajaya says BTN official suspended over racist remarks”,
- Last accessed 14 November 2010
10 “Government insists prompt action taken against racist officials”,
officials/ - Last accessed 14 November 2010
11 “‘Non-Malays’ patriotism not strong enough”, – Last
accessed 19 November 2010
12 “Cabinet gag order on non-Malay numbers in military, says Koh”,
koh - Last accessed 19 November 2010
13 SUARAM (2009) Malaysia: Civil and Political Rights Report 2009 Overview, Petaling Jaya: SUARAM
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
despite Hishammuddin’s announcement that feedback on the proposed amendments had
already been obtained from various parties.
In early 2010, Hishamuddin made similar assurances.14 His deputy, Wira Abu Seman
said, “We hope to do it during this Parliamentary [March-June] session.”15 However,
during the March Parliamentary session, Hishammuddin announced that the proposed
amendments to the ISA, though ready for tabling, will not be brought up. 16 He also
indicated that the cabinet decided the amendments had to be tabled with reforms in other
preventive laws "based on security and public order issues" namely the Emergency
Ordinance (EO) and the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA). As of 8 December, however, no
amendments have been scheduled to be tabled at Parliament. Hishammuddin had
announced on 19 November that the ISA amendments are “pending the Attorney-
General’s approval.”17
This year saw 25 arrests were made under the ISA while 15 were released. Among those
released was Shamsuddin Sulaiman, an alleged Jemaah Islamiah member. Detained since
2002, Shamsuddin was released on 2 September 2010. He was one of the longest serving
detainees in recent years. As of 8 December 2010 15 individuals are still held under ISA
in the Kamunting detention camp.
While making promises to review and amend the ISA, the government has actually
enlarged the scope of the ISA, allowing for its usage in cases of human trafficking.18 It
continues to defend the usage of the ISA to address the threat of terrorism.
Apart from detentions under the ISA, over one thousand individuals, including minors
and young adults, are estimated to be currently detained under the Emergency Ordinance
(EO) and Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) in detention centres around the country –
Simpang Renggam and Muar detention camps in Johor, Machap detention camp in
Kelantan, and Batu Gajah detention camp in Perak.
In a parliamentary written reply in January 2010, the Home Ministry disclosed that 3,701
people had been arrested under the EO in the period between 2000 and 2009, among
14 “ISA amendments to spell out what national threats are”, – Last accessed
20 November 2009
15 “ISA, Police Act amendments to be tabled”, -
Last accessed 20 November 2010
16 “Tabling of ISA changes delayed”,
mi_8016/is_20100320/tabling-isa-delayed/ai_n52651570/ - Last accessed 1 November 2010
17 “ISA amendments pending A-G's approval”,
ags-approval - Last accessed 20 November 2010
18 “Is the ISA the answer to human trafficking?”,
- Last accessed 19 November 2010
“Nine detained under ISA for human trafficking”, – Last
accessed 19 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
them 133 minors.19 As of February, there are 819 detainees detained under the EO and
412 under the DDA. The number of minors arrested under the EO this year is still
unknown. SUARAM itself is handling three cases.
In June, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), which visited
Malaysia, had this to say about the preventive detention laws in Malaysia20:
“The [Malaysian] Government justifies the need for these laws based on its
obligation to guarantee national security and the security of its citizens.
Nevertheless, detention without trial and without charges, for flexible and
extendable term limits, at the will of the authorities, affects not only the rights to
personal freedom, free trial and presumption of innocence, but also the right to
security of person, which guarantees the right to liberty for all persons if they
have not committed any crime.”
The UN WGAD also recommended that four preventive detention acts - the ISA, EO,
DDA and the Restricted Residence Act - be repealed, or if amended, ensure that they
conform with Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.21
The judiciary, in failing to ensure the legal rights of the accused are respected in terms of
right to legal representation and family visits, have failed their duty to act as a check and
balance in cases of arrests under these restrictive Acts.
On 12 August 2010, the Federal Court of Malaysia dismissed and overturned the High
Court's rare judgment to award Abdul Malek Hussin 2.5 million Malaysian Ringgit
(MYR) for his unlawful detention under the ISA. Furthermore, the apex court also
ordered Abdul Malek to pay MYR20, 000 to the defendants - special branch officer
Borhan Daud, the then Inspector-General of Police Abdul Rahim Noor, and the
Malaysian government. This is in addition to MYR50, 000 costs that the Court of Appeal
ordered him to pay in March.22
Most detainees released from the ISA, the EO or the DDA are only given conditional
releases which includes strict restrictions on their movements under the Restricted
Residence Act (RRA). For instance, Shamsuddin Sulaiman, who was detained for 8 years
19 Pemberitahuan Pertanyaan Bagi Jawab Bukan Lisan, Dewan Rakyat; Soalan nombor: 386; Rujukan:
2250 [Reply to Parliamentary Written Question, Dewan Rakyat; Question number: 386; Reference: 2250].
20 “Statement by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention upon conclusion of its Mission to Malaysia (7-
18 June 2010)”, – Last
accessed 20 November 2010
21 “Arbitrary Detention: Preventive Laws should be repealed or amended in Malaysia - UN expert body”, – Last
accessed 20 November 2010
22 “Ex-ISA detainee: Bankruptcy not an option”, - Last
accessed 24 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
in solitary confinement, was released on 2 September 201023 with strict restrictions on his
movements. He is required to report to the police every Monday and is prohibited from
leaving his residence from 9pm to 6am daily. He is also barred from speaking at public
events and taking part in activities of political parties and trade unions. Besides
Shamsuddin Sulaiman, four other individuals were given similar restrictions upon their
releases in 2010.
ISA detainees who are foreign nationals often face deportation to their home countries
even when their families are residing in Malaysia. In 2010, all 10 foreign nationals were
deported upon their release from detention.
In September, Ismail Omar took over the position of Inspector-General of Police from
Musa Hassan.24 On 30 September the newly appointed IGP unveiled his “4P” (Proactive,
Protective, Performance-oriented and People-oriented) plan for the police force to deliver
a more efficient service to the public.25
Thus far, the 4P plan has turned out to be another public relations exercise with very few
real changes on the ground. The brutal arrest and detention of K. Selvach Santhiran in
October, a key witness in the inquest into the custodial death of R. Gunasegaran, was an
example of the unchecked abuse of police powers continuing under the new IGP’s
tenure. On 25 October, K. Selvach was visited at his home by a group of men claiming to
be police officers. They handcuffed him before beating him up in front of his wife and
children. They only flashed their police authority card after K. Selvach’s wife questioned
them. Details of his arrest and detention only came to light when nearly 100 people
staged a protest outside the federal police headquarters at Bukit Aman in Kuala Lumpur
on 30 October. N. Surendran, the lawyer for K. Selvach’s family stated that the arrest
seemed to be an act of revenge by the police, considering that the arrest took place on the
same day that the inquest was concluded26. K. Selvach is currently in detention under the
Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985, which allows for detention
without trial for up to two years.
23 “Malaysia frees JI militant after eight years: Police”, - Last
accessed 16 November 2010
24 “Ismail takes over as new IGP”, – Last accessed 23 November
25 “IGP's plan for a 'polished force'”, - Last accessed 23
November 2010
26 “'Brutal' arrest: Memo for the IGP”,
brutal-arrest-memo-for-the-igp - Last accessed 22 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
Another high profile case in 2010 was the police shooting of 15 year old Aminulrasyid
Amzah. On April 26, Aminulrasyid Amzah was shot and killed by police officers after a
high speed chase in Shah Alam, Selangor. The police gave chase after the car driven by
Aminulrasyid, who was underaged and without a driving license, had hit another vehicle
and fled the scene. The chase ended when Aminulrasyid’s car rammed into a tree. The
police officers alleged that they had fired in self defence after Aminulrasyid had tried to
reverse the car into them. However, the police’s account was refuted by Aminulrasyid’s
friend, Azamuddin Omar, who was also in the car and managed to escape uninjured.27
The shooting provoked a national outcry and various quarters demanded that a full and
transparent investigation be conducted and for the findings to be made public.
The reaction from the then Inspector General of Police, Musa Hassan, was to threaten to
take his men off the streets and allow the public to fend for themselves28. As of 22
November, the trial of the police officer(s) responsible for Aminulrasyid’s shooting is
still ongoing. Among the facts of the case that have surfaced and made public was that
30 bullet holes were found on the car driven by Aminulrasyid29 contrary to earlier
accounts that only four shots had been fired by the police30.
Through media monitoring, SUARAM has documented a total number of at least 15
individuals killed in police shootings between 1 January and 22 November 2010, raising
concerns that the police are ‘trigger-happy’ in the course of carrying out their duties31.
To date, no official number of deaths by police shootings has been released in 2010. In
the vast majority of these shootings, the usual justification is “self-defence”. Currently,
there is no oversight body which investigates police shooting related killings.
The failure of the government to implement the reform of the police force, particularly in
line with the recommendations made by the Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation
and Management of the Royal Malaysian Police (Royal Commission on the Police) and
the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), has contributed to human
rights violations by the police. To date, the government has not made any commitments
to implement the 125 recommendations made by the Royal Commission on the Police,
including the setting up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct
Commission (IPCMC).
27 “Aminulrasyid’s friend denies they tried to ram down cop”, – Last accessed 22
November 2010
28 “IGP hits out at critics over shooting of teenager”, – Last accessed
22 November 2010
29 “Aminulrasyid’s car riddled with 30 bullet holes, trial told”,
- Last accessed 22 November 2010
30 “‘Only one cop opened fire’”, – Last accessed 22
November 2010
31 “Are the police shooting to kill?”, - Last
accessed 22 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
Through media monitoring, SUARAM has recorded at least two deaths while in police
custody in 2010, one in January and the other in August. Despite the requirement that all
custodial deaths are to be investigated pursuant to Chapter XXXII of the Criminal
Procedure Code (CPC), this has not happened in all cases. Inquests when they are
conducted usually take a very long time to conclude and are open to allegations of
political manipulation.
For instance, the ongoing inquest of the custodial death of Teoh Beng Hock is a stark
reminder of feet dragging that happens when there are allegations of abuse and misuse of
power by state agencies.32 Teoh Beng Hock was an aide of a politician from the
opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) who died while in the custody of the
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). Despite public pressure to set up a
Royal Commission to investigate the death of Teoh, the government set up a Royal
Commission only to study investigative procedures, leaving the specific investigation of
Teoh’s death to the inquest headed by a magistrate.
The police has also continued to use excessive force when dispersing peaceful
assemblies. This was evident in the arrests of over 30 individuals at various anti-ISA
vigils throughout the country which took place on 1 August.33
Allegations of third party interference in police operations were raised by IGP Musa
Hassan on the eve of his retirement. He went on record as saying that he would look into
lodging a report regarding the interference34. However, Home Minister secretary-general
Mahmood Adam has denied these allegations35. Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein,
in a Parliamentary reply to Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng, said that the government has no
plans to investigate the allegations made by the former IGP. He further stated that “the
[Home] ministry has also no plans to take action against the allegations.”36
Also a cause for concern is the fact that other state agencies and departments, such as the
Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and the Securities Commission (SC), have taken on
32 “Teoh Beng Hock inquest: Investigating officer denies covering-up evidence”,
- Last accessed 23 November 2010
33 “Suhakam regrets police arrests, 30 GMI activists released”,
suhakam-regrets-police-arrests-30-gmi-activists-released - Last accessed 22 November 2010
“Anti-ISA protesters arrested”,
arrested - Last accessed 23 November 2010
34 “Outgoing IGP not ruling out lodging report over third party interference”,
- Last accessed 23 November 2010
35 “Home ministry denies Musa’s ‘interference’ claim”, -
Last accessed 23 November 2010
36 “No plan to probe Musa's 'third party interference' claim”,
news/general/11466-no-plan-to-probe-musas-third-party-interference-claim - Last accessed 23
November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
extrajudicial and enforcement roles. On 6 January, N. Tharmendran, a former RMAF
sergeant, along with businessman K. Rajandran Prasad, was charged in connection with
the theft of 2 F5-E jet engines, which went missing in 2007. After claiming trial,
Tharmendran was released on police bail. However, he was rearrested by RMAF officers
outside the Shah Alam High Court on 25 November on charges of desertion and for
missing work since September when he posted bail even though his services were already
terminated in May 201037. Tharmendran has also alleged that he was tortured during his
earlier detention38, allegations which the RMAF and Defence Ministry have denied. Even
before his rearrest, the RMAF had served Tharmendran’s counsel, N. Surendran,
demanding that Surendran advise his client to turn himself in to armed forces personnel
within seven days or face potential criminal proceedings39. The Bar Council slammed the
RMAF’s action, calling it “an explicit and unambiguous threat” which was “appalling
and unacceptable interference in a solicitor-client relationship.”40
In another incident in June involving the Securities Commission, 3 business reporters -
BK Sidhu from “The Star”, Azlan Abu Bakar of the “New Straits Times” daily, and
Dalila Abu Bakar from “The Malaysian Reserve” - were questioned by the SC for their
investigations into a furniture company. The actions of the SC drew flak from editors and
veteran journalists, deeming it “inappropriate” for the SC to question the reporters for up
to 8 hours41. The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) noted that while the SC may
justify their action as being within the boundaries of the law, the powers bestowed by
Section 134 of the Securities Commissions Act “are very wide and open to abuse.” CIJ
voiced concerns about these powers since the Securities Commissions Act does not
differentiate between a journalist and an informant42.
In 2010, Malaysia tumbled to the 141st position in the Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF)’s
Press Freedom Index, dropping 10 places from 131st in 2009. According to Malaysiakini,
37 “RMAF arrests ex-airman in engine theft case for deserting”,
- Last accessed 4 December 2010
38 “RMAF jet engines scandal: Sergeant files summons to cross examine majors”,
examine-majors/ - Last accessed 4 December 2010
39 “RMAF says ex-airman’s lawyer helping him go AWOL” -
Last accessed 4 December 2010
40 “Bar Council demands RMAF to withdraw threat”, - Last
accessed 4 December 2010
41 “Securities Commission taken to task”,
taken-task - Last accessed 5 December 2010
42 “'Interrogation not justified', CIJ tells Securities Commission”, - Last
accessed 7 December 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
this is the lowest position that Malaysia has attained in the past 9 years.43 The RSF
commented that “…repression has not diminished in ASEAN countries, despite the
recent adoption of a human rights charter.”44 ‘528 Tak Nak Potong’, a coalition of
concerned citizens and Malaysian NGOs, attributed this drop in ranking to “[the] direct
interference of state or non-state actors, or self-censorship by media organisations
In the first half of 2010, various incidents served to illustrate the general trend of
increasing media repression, through political interference, the usage of repressive media
laws, namely the Printing and Publications Act 1984, and state agencies, such as the
Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), to stifle dissent.
In February, several NGOs lodged police reports against English daily “The Star”
following the publication of a column by its Managing Editor P. Gunasegaran entitled
“Persuasion, not compulsion”, which criticised the whipping of three Muslim women for
illicit sex. The daily subsequently published an apology, which was deemed insufficient
by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS). MAIS itself then lodged a police
report against P. Gunasegaran and Sisters in Islam (SIS) for insulting Islam and Syariah
law. Following a show-case letter by the Home Ministry, “The Star” spiked an article by
Marina Mahathir, daughter of former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who wrote critically
about MAIS’s actions.
In March, Chinese-language daily “China Press” was issued a show-cause letter by the
Home Ministry for ‘misreporting’ the resignation of then Inspector-General of Police
Musa Hassan. Under Section 8A of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (Act
301), offenders are liable to be jailed not more than three years or fined not exceeding
RM20,000 or both if convicted. Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, however, did
confirm that Musa Hassan’s contract as IGP would not be extended and that his tenure as
IGP would end in September. Following the show-cause letter, the “China Press”
apologised for its ‘inaccurate report’ and suspended its editor-in-chief, Teoh Yong
Khoon, for two weeks over the incident.
In April, allegations arose that the Prime Minister’s wife, Rosmah Mansur, had pressured
privately owned television station NTV7, on the direction of its Chinese-language talk
show, “Editor’s Time.” Rosmah had allegedly forwarded text messages complaining that
the talk show was ‘racist’ to NTV7’s senior management. Earlier episodes of “Editor’s
Time” had featured debates between politicians drawn from the Barisan Nasional ruling
coalition and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat as well as independent commentators. This
lead to NTV7 deciding that the talk show would not cover the Hulu Selangor
43 “Lowest press freedom ranking in nine years”, - Last
accessed 24 November 2010
44 Reporters Sans Frontières (2010) “Press Freedom Index 2010”,
2010,1034.html – Last accessed 24 November 2010
45 “Stop Political Intervention into and Self-Censorship in the Media Industry - Memorandum by
Malaysians Demanding Press Freedom 2010”,
press-freedom-2010/ - Last accessed 24 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
parliamentary by-election (which took place on 25 April) and also refrain from covering
political issues in general as well as not inviting any opposition politicians as guests on
future shows. Joshua Wong Ngee Choong, the producer of the talk show, resigned in
protest of the self-censorship by the television channel. NTV7’s management did not
refute Wong’s accusation. Apart from postings on various blogs and the alternative news
media, only two mainstream newspapers carried the news of Wong’s resignation. News
of the alleged interference by Rosmah was also virtually blacked out by all mainstream
Also in April, the Broadcasting Director-General of state broadcaster Radio Television
Malaysia (RTM), instructed that Chinese-language documentary series “Galeri Mandarin
Nasional”, screened on TV2 (one of two state owned television channels), be taken off
the air after only two episodes. The 10-episode documentary exposed the plight of more
than 10,000 natives of Belaga in the state of Sarawak, who were displaced in 1998 due to
the construction of the Bakun Dam. The documentary producer Chow revealed that his
superior claimed that some “sensitive elements” in the documentary could be harmful to
the Sibu parliamentary by-election which was to be held on 16 May, and the upcoming
Sarawak state election.
The Printing and Publications Act has always been used as a tool by the ruling BN
government to stifle dissent and alternative opinions. For example, the publishing permit
for opposition party Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s “Suara Keadilan” was suspended on
2 July following a front page article entitled “FELDA46 Bangkrap (FELDA is
bankrupt)”47. The Home Ministry also sent show-cause letters to “Harakah”, the Parti
Islam-SeMalaysia’s party organ, and the “Rocket”, the Democratic Action Party’s
newsletter, for various offences under the Printing and Publications Act48. This was
followed up with a raid by Home Ministry officials on Angkatan Edaran, a print factory
in Shah Alam, Selangor which prints “Harakah”49. Both DAP and PAS are members of
the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition coalition.
There were several publications that were banned and/or seized in the second half of
2010 for various offences under the Printing and Publications Act and the Sedition Act.
Among them were “March to Putrajaya”50 by Kim Quek and also several publications
46 FELDA is the Federal Land Development Authority, a government agency handling the resettlement of
rural poor into newly developed areas. It focuses on opening smallholder farms growing cash crop and
generally only open to ethnic Malays,
47 “Publication of Suara Keadilan, Harakah and Rocket halted”, – Last accessed 24 November 2010
48 “Anwar: Harakah, Rocket, Suara Keadilan suspended”, – Last
49 “Ministry ‘raids’ Harakah printers; Suara Keadilan set for print”,
politics/pakatan-rakyat/7702-ministry-raids-harakah-printers-suara-keadilan-set-for-print-/ - Last
accessed 24 November 2010
50 “Cops call on “March to Putrajaya” author over sedition allegation”, - Last
accessed 24 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
like “Cartoon-O-Phobia”51 and “1Funny Malaysia” by cartoonist Zulkiflee Anawar
Ulhaque (better known as Zunar).53 Zunar was also arrested on 24 September, just hours
before the launch of “Cartoon-O-Phobia” under the Sedition Act.54
Other cases of repression of freedom of expression include the suspension and
subsequent sacking of popular radio deejay, Jamaluddin Ibrahim (popularly known as DJ
Jamal) and the arrest of blogger Irwan Abdul Rahman (who goes by “Hassan Skodeng”
on his blog). Jamaluddin, a popular deejay for Chinese-language radio station Radio 988,
was initially suspended on 19 August after the MCMC sent a warning letter to the radio
station saying that he was “threatening national security” and “compromising race
relationships” during an interview with columnist Ouyang Wen Feng on the “Hi
Malaysia” talk-show which Jamaluddin hosted on Aug 13. Jamaluddin also alleged that
there were elements of a political conspiracy to his suspension, involving Malaysian
Chinese Association (MCA)’s president, Chua Soi Lek. His sacking followed not soon
Blogger, Irwan Abdul Rahman, was arrested and charged in court under Section 233
(1)(a) of the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998, for “improper use of network
facilities or network service by making, creating, soliciting and initiating transmission of
any content that is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with
malicious intent.”55 His ‘crime’ was a blog posting entitled “TNB to sue WWF over
Earth Hour”, a satirical news article that claimed Tenaga National Berhad (TNB), the
national power provider, would be suing the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) over lost
profits due to the WWF’s Earth Hour campaign.
One of the lowest points in terms of freedom of expression occurred earlier in the year in
January. While speaking at the launching of a seminar on the 1Malaysia concept,
Information Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim said Malaysians,
“especially Muslims”, should be wary of the internet and social networking services such
as Facebook and Twitter.56 His comments caused an uproar in cyberspace and the Twitter
51 “Zunar on police bail, plans to sell “Cartoon-O-Phobia””, – Last accessed 24
53 “Malaysiakini’s “1Funny Malaysia” by Zunar banned”, -Last
accessed 24 November 2010
54 “Cartoonist Zunar arrested”, – Last accessed
24 November 2010
55 “Journalist charged over TNB parody in blog posting”, – Last accessed 23
November 2010
56 “Malaysians advised against being immersed in Facebook, Twitter”, – Last accessed
24 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
hashtag #yorais57 (Twitter’s way of setting topics for discussion) peaked at No 3 on the
Top 10 Trending Topics Chart on Twitter.58
In a recent posting on his blog, Prime Minister Najib Razak asked, “How do we
supercede extremist behaviour on our social and information networks with more
moderate and balanced discourse?”59 Najib Razak had earlier alluded to this question
when he called for the MCMC to act against websites that insulted Islam60. Further
clarification came when Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein announced that the
government would introduce guidelines to define cyber-sedition.61This could possibly
lead to a cyber sedition act or amendments to the current Sedition Act to include acts of
sedition in cyberspace.62 These proposed guidelines or amendments are in direct
contravention of the ten-point Bill of Guarantees (BoGs) of the Malaysian Multimedia
Super Corridor launched in 1996, in which the government promised not to enforce any
Freedom of Information continued to be a contentious issue in Malaysia. Two
opposition-held states, Selangor and Penang have a Freedom of Information Act in
various stages of implementation at the state government level, but the federal
government continues to use restrictive laws, such as the Official Secrets Act, to restrict
the Malaysian citizen’s access to information.
In a landmark ruling on 28 June, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur declared that the
public has the right to know about the water agreement between the federal government,
the Selangor state government and Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn. Bhd. (SYABAS),
and ordered the federal government to make the relevant documents available to the
public63. The agreement, signed in 2004, stipulated that the concession report and audit
57 “Twitter topic search - #yorais”, – Last accessed 24
November 2010
58 “Rais comments has internet boiling, creates global sensation”, – Last accessed
24 November 2010
59 “Our Leadership In Online Social Media”,
media/ - Last accessed 24 November 2010
60 “Najib wants MCMC to act against websites insulting Islam”,
- Last accessed 25 November 2010
61 “Cyber sedition: Guidelines ready next week”, - Last
accessed 25 November 2010
62 “Putrajaya fired over new sedition rules covering cyberspace”,
63 “Court orders water documents revealed”, - Last accessed 24
November 2010.
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
were classified as confidential and could only be disclosed to the public with the
agreement of all parties involved. However, the High Court granted the federal
government a stay of its order to declassify the documents on 2 July.64 The Selangor state
government had earlier agreed to make the documents public in February.65 It remains to
be seen if the state government will or can follow through on its promise.
On 14 July, the Pakatan Rakyat-led state government tabled its Freedom of Information
Bill for its first reading and debate. This was followed by another Pakatan Rakyat-led
state, Penang, which tabled its own Freedom of Information Bill on 1 November. Both
Bills are the result of the respective state government’s pledges to enact state legislation
that would promote transparency and accountability in the state governments.
Selangor State Executive Councillor, Elizabeth Wong said that the state government
tabled the bill to “enhance disclosure of information in the public interest, to provide
every individual with a window to access information made at local councils and
departments at the state level.”66 The Barisan Nasional (BN) assemblyman for Dusun Tua
objected to the Bill, saying that the Bill cannot be tabled as “certain information involves
departments under the state that needs to obtain clearance from Parliament before it is
declassified [under the Official Secrets Act].”67
The move by the Selangor state government was lauded by most proponents of freedom
of information, but the Coalition for Good Governance (CGG), a coalition of NGOs,
expressed concerns that the Bill “put too much power in the hands of certain individuals,”
and that rejection or approval of an application for information is solely at the discretion
of the person in charge of the information68.
The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), a member of the CGG, commented that
there are “some good points” in Selangor’s Freedom of Information enactment but “too
much is missing” from the Bill. CIJ noted that six important areas – concerning the level
of disclosure, the narrowness of exemptions, protection for whistleblowers, routine
publications, unconfirmed costs along with an overemphasis on procedures, and
provisions for an independent oversight body - are missing from the enactment69. These
64 “Putrajaya blocks Syabas information from going public”,
- Last accessed 24 November 2010
65 “Selangor agrees to make Syabas deal public”, – Last accessed
24 November 2010
66 “Selangor tables freedom of information Bill”, - Last accessed 24
November 2010
67 “Selangor tables FOI Bill”, – Last accessed 24 November 2010
68 “Fear of abuse of FOI”, –Last accessed 24
November 2010
69 “What’s missing in Selangor’s FOI law”,
- Last accessed 28 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
missing elements make Selangor’s FOI Bill more of an ‘opportunity’ to get information,
rather than a ‘right’.
To date, the other two Pakatan Rakyat-led states, Kelantan and Kedah, have yet to make
any commitments to enacting any Freedom of Information legislation while the federal
government has remained silent on the issue of a national level Freedom of Information
Among others, the Freedom of Information Act would be an important step forward in
accessing information to evaluate any alleged impropriety in various government and
business dealings. This includes the controversial purchase of Scorpene submarines
conducted during Najib Razak’s tenure as Home Minister.
The BN government continues to flout the constitutionally-enshrined right to freedom of
assembly by arresting over 100 individuals participating in peaceful assemblies in 2010.
On 15 January, three individuals including one reporter – Shazni Munir, Mohd
Shahruddin and Zainulfaqar Yaacob – were arrested for participating in a peaceful
student assembly on the Universiti Malaya (UM) campus in Selangor to protest against
the e-voting process used in campus elections.
Another two individuals – Muhammad Huzaifah Jusof and Muhd Zarimi Mohamad -
were also arrested on the same day for participating in a similar protest held on the
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) campus in Selangor.
On 1 May, the police arrested 6 individuals, among them a 17-year-old boy, for
participating in a peaceful rally organised by the Jawatankuasa May1/MayDay Action
Committee (a coalition comprised of NGOs and concerned citizens) in conjunction with
the International Workers’ Day to protest against the proposed Good and Services Tax
(GST). Those arrested were Sundarajan, Shanmugamnathan, Murugan, Barathi, Chua
Siew Eng, and Mohan Ellan.
Thirty six individuals were arrested throughout the country for participating in peaceful
candlelight vigils commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Internal Security Act (ISA)
which took place on 1 August. Four individuals were arrested in Penang, two in Kelantan
and another 30 in Selangor. There were also reports of excessive use of force by the
police when making the arrests.
On 2 August, two individuals were arrested for taking part in the launch of the Gabungan
Memprotes Kenaikan Harga Minyak (PROTES), an anti fuel price hike, campaign at
Kampung Kerinchi, Selangor. The 2 were Rozam Azen, (assistant to Opposition MP Tian
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
Chua) and SUARAM coordinator Tah Moon Hui. They were detained because they
refused to open a car, which did not even belong to any of them, when instructed by the
On 7 August, police arrested three individuals at Kampung Sungai Terentang, Rawang in
the state of Selangor during a protest by the villagers when Tenaga Nasional Berhad
(TNB), the national power provider, brought in more than a hundred workers and police
personnel to Kampung Sungai Terentang for the installation of high-tension electric
cables and a transmission tower.
On 11 October, four legal aid volunteers from the Bar Council’s Legal Aid Centre (LAC)
– lawyers Jason Kong and Chan Khoon Moh and along with two chambering students –
were arrested for distributing pamphlets at the Bukit Jalil bus terminal in Selangor.
Ironically, the pamphlets contained information on police remand powers and procedures.
Besides making arrests and detaining participants of public assemblies, the police
authorities have also continued to harass and intimidate individuals and disrupt the
Opposition’s political events.
In early March, opposition coalition members organised a series of events to
commemorate the two year anniversary of the 8 March elections which saw the
opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) take control of 4 states (in addition to Kelantan) and
deny the ruling Barisan Nasional two-thirds majority in Parliament. At one such event on
6 March, police officers climbed onstage to stop a dinner organised by the Democratic
Action Party (DAP), as no permit had been given for speeches. On 8 March, they stopped
a Pakatan Rakyat event midway at Sultan Sulaiman Club in Kampung Baru, Kuala
Lumpur, also for the same reason. At least one person was arrested during the police
On 17 March, 2000 Orang Asli, indigenous natives of Peninsular Malaysia, organised a
historic march in Putrajaya to voice their dissatisfaction on land issues. The protest was
organised by the Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC). The police stopped the march
15 minutes after it kicked off. They had originally planned to march from the Putrajaya
mosque to the Prime Minister’s office to hand over a memorandum signed by 12,000
Orang Asli. The police instructed the protesters not to display their banners and
redirected half of the crowd to the nearby Ministry of Rural Development. Finally five
representatives were allowed to submit the memorandum.
In the most recent incident, almost 60 individuals – including Selangor state
assemblyperson Dr. Nasir Hashim (Parti Sosialis Malaysia chairperson) and a 15 year old
boy – for participating in an ‘illegal’ public assembly on 5 December. The rally was
organised by the Selangor state government to protest the proposed water tariff hike in
Selangor and to hand over a memorandum to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King)
regarding the issue. Dr. Nasir along with two others, S. Arutchelvan (PSM Secretary-
General) and A. Sivarajan (PSM Treasurer) - were arrested even before the rally had
started, for wearing red.
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
The police attacked the crowd with tear gas and water cannons just moments after
Selangor Menteri Besar (Chief Minister), Khalid Ibrahim and state executive committee
members left in their cars to head to the Istana Negara to hand over the memorandum. It
was also reported that the police stepped up their violent actions even as the crowd tried
to disperse, resulting in some injuries among the participants of the rally.
Freedom of religion in Malaysia is enshrined in the Federal Constitution. Article 11
guarantees the right of every citizen to profess, practice and propagate his or her religion,
subject to applicable state laws restricting the propagation of other religions to Muslims.
In addition, Article 3 of the Federal Constitution provides that Islam is the religion of the
Federation, but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony. However, in
recent times, there have been a number of issues and incidents which have tested, and in
some ways, limited these constitutional freedoms.
On 31 December 2009, a landmark ruling was made in the “Titular Roman Catholic
Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur vs. Menteri Dalam Negeri”, where the High Court lifted
the home minister’s 3-year ban against the Catholic church using the word “Allah” to
refer to the Christian God in its weekly publication, The Herald.70 The Ministry
subsequently appealed71, which set the stage for a series of arson attacks on several
houses of worship72 in the country which came almost immediately following the court
verdict. The Home Ministry had initially banned the usage of word claiming that its
usage would confuse the Muslim majority.
Despite calls from various quarters to drop the appeal, the government has made it clear
that they had no plans to withdraw the appeal73, even after Home Minister
Hishammuddin Hussein publicly expressed regret over the ban74.
Quite worryingly, the ruling BN government has also brushed aside allegations of
UMNO’s direct involvement in the church arsons75 and also allowed for at least one
70 “Court rules Catholic Herald can use Allah word”, - 31Dec
2009 - Last accessed 14 November 2010
71 “Home Ministry files appeal against ‘Allah’ decision”, –
Last accessed 14 November 2010
72 “Malaysia church torched amid Allah row”,
45233720100107?sp=true – Last accessed 14 Nov 2010
73 Minister says no to dropping ‘Allah’ appeal, - Last
accessed 14 November 2010
74 “Hishammuddin says regrets ‘Allah’ ban, - Last accessd
14 Nov 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
public protest76 against the court’s decision, a stark contrast to their usual stand of not
allowing public protests of any sort. Some state funded mosques in Kuala Lumpur and
Selangor also prominently displayed banners exhorting Muslims to protect the sanctity of
the ‘Allah’ word. The Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin went as far as to
publicly chide their coalition partner, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), who
called on the government to drop the appeal.77 To date, the government has also failed to
keep their promise of an inter-faith dialogue to tackle the issue.78
In September, a controversy surrounding opposition MP Teo Nie Ching erupted when she
was criticised by UMNO and Malay rights pressure group Perkasa for entering a mosque,
with PERKASA calling for Syariah laws to be created to bar non-Muslims from entering
Muslim houses of worship79. She was issued a warning by the Selangor Islamic Affairs
Council (MAIS) after the religious body claimed her visit to the mosque had displeased
the sultan.80
In October, Basil anak Baginda, a 10-year old schoolboy, was caned 10 times by the
senior assistant of SK St. Thomas in the state of Sarawak, for bringing pork sausages for
lunch to the school. This case has highlighted the growing trend of enforcing Islamic
precepts on non-Muslims as pork is considered non-kosher to Muslims and Jews.81
An increasing number of disputes over the religion of persons who had purportedly
converted into Islam without the knowledge of their families have surfaced in recent
years. In most of these cases, decisions were made by the Syariah courts without the
knowledge of the non-Muslim families, while it is stipulated in Article 121(1A) of the
Federal Constitution that civil courts have “no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within
the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts.” Article 121(1A) was inserted in 1988 to prevent
the overlapping jurisdiction and conflicting decisions by the civil and Islamic courts.
On 20 August, the Court of Appeal ruled that the civil High Court has no jurisdiction to
determine the religious status of the late Sergeant M. Moorthy, whose conversion to
Islam has been disputed by his family. A three-man panel comprising Datuk Zainun Ali,
75 “Hishammuddin: Police don’t need Azmin’s statement”, – Last
accessed 14 November 2010
76 “Home ministry to allow protests against ‘Allah’ ruling”, - Last
accessed 14 November 2010
77 “DPM warns MCA over ‘Allah’ appeal”,
mca-over-allah-appeal/ - Last accessed 14 November 2010
78 “Govt to hold inter-faith dialogues to resolve differences of views”, – Last accessed 14
November 2010
79 “Perkasa wants non-muslims banned from mosques, suraus”,
- Last accessed – 14 November 2010
80 “Serdang MP Teo gives statement to police over surau incident”,
incident/ - Last accessed – 14 November 2010
81 “Probe caned for non-halal food incident: MCA”, – Last
accessed 18 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
Datuk Abdul Wahab Patail and Datuk Clement Allan Skinner made the ruling when
dismissing the appeal brought by Moorthy's widow S. Kaliammal. The bench held that
the Syariah Court was the competent authority to determine any matter relating to the
conversion to, or renouncement of, Islam. Kaliammal, who was present in court, was
appealing against the High Court's ruling in December 2005, which refused to determine
the religious status of her late husband on grounds that a matter of this nature was under
the exclusive jurisdiction of the Syariah Court.
Cases of unilateral conversions of children in marriages where one spouse has converted
to Islam also continue to be an issue in Malaysia. In 2009, the government pledged that
the law would be changed so that children's conversions would not be allowed without
the consent of both parents. The decision came in the wake of the highly publicised case
of M Indira Gandhi, who estranged husband embraced Islam and then converted their
children to the religion. Sadly, the law reform in this area has stalled due to objections
from the Council of Rulers, who said that any amendments to legislation pertaining to
matters of conversion and religion must first go through the respective state religious
This impasse led to the continuing controversy surrounding the case of Shamala
Sathiyaseelan vs Dr. Jeyaganesh C. Mogarajah. On 12 November, the Federal Court
unanimously allowed the objection to Shamala's case on the grounds of the contempt of
court case pending against for not attending a court hearing.
Shamala has been out of the country since 2004, presumably in Australia, with her two
sons. Dr. Jeyaganesh, now known as Muhammad Ridzwan Mogarajah, converted to
Islam sometime in November 2002. He and Shamala were married in 1998 according to
Hindu rites, with their marriage registered under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce)
Act 1976. He subsequently converted their two underage sons (then aged four and two) to
Islam without Shamala’s knowledge or consent.
The Federal Court, in allowing a preliminary objection brought by Shamala's estranged
husband Dr. Jeyaganesh, said Shamala must return to the country if she wanted the
court's protection, thereby sidestepping the key constitutional issues raised in the case.
The court’s decision received criticism from various quarters, including the Bar Council,
who said “By side-stepping these significant issues, the Federal Court failed to be
decisive, and abdicated its role as the ultimate arbiter in disputes involving constitutional
questions and jurisdictional conflict.”82
Racial stereotyping is still prevalent in mainstream Malaysian media as was seen in
November, when an advertisement showing a Muslim convert returning home to
celebrate Deepavali with his estranged family caused the ire of the Hindu Defence Forum
82 “Federal Court told not to shirk conversion cases”, - Last
accessed 3 December 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
(Hindform) and seen as an “insult” to Hindus and their faith.83 The advertisement,
produced by the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS), also showed the
covert’s Malay spouse’s hesitance to eat the food at her in-law’s house, fearing that it
might not be halal. A Hindform spokesman pointed out that the advertisement went
against the Malaysian Code of Advertisements which states that advertisements must
showcase a Malaysian identity, and not typecast racial groups. Hindform has lodged
police reports against Finas, and two television networks which had aired the clip.
In 2010, the Malaysian Government showed no indication of ratifying the 1951
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol or introducing
domestic legislation to recognise the status of refugees. Due to the lack of legal status,
refugees continue to face denial of basic rights.
As of September 2010, there were 90,301 refugees registered with the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).84
Throughout this year, the issue of refugees was raised repeatedly by government officials,
largely concerning provision of documentation for refugees and proposals to allow
refugees to work. The following are the instances when the issue of refugees was raised
by government officials:
On 2 February, the Home Ministry secretary-general Mahmood Adam announced that the
Government had plans to issue identification cards to refugees recognised by UNHCR
which would allow refugees to remain in the country temporarily and to avoid arrest.
Despite that, he stated that the refugees would not be allowed to work but they can do
“odd jobs.”85
Even though Mahmood Adam stated that the initiative was at “final stage”, it was
reported in June that the government had backtracked on the matter on the pretext that
there was no provision in the law that allowed for cards to be issued to an undocumented
83 “Police report filed over Muslim convert Deepavali ad”,
news/general/12747-police-report-filed-over-muslim-convert-deepavali-ad - Last accessed 3
December 2010
84 “Parliament: Over 90,000 Refugees In Malaysia”, – Last accessed 1 December 2010
85 “Sec-gen: UN-recognised refugees to get ID cards”, The Star, 2 February
86 “Malaysia Backtracks on ID Cards for ‘Illegal’ Refugees”, The Jakarta Globe, 16 June, - Last
accessed 26 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
On 12 February, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) called on the
government to allow refugees to work instead of importing more foreign labour.87
Consequently, it was reported on 22 February that the Home Ministry and the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs would discuss and consider allowing refugees to work. This was a
response to recommendations from various sectors to allow refugees to work.88
On 18 November, Home Ministry secretary-general Mahmood Adam announced that a
special cabinet meeting to discuss issues on foreign workers would be held in mid-
December. The meeting will also see the cabinet making a decision on whether refugees
will be allowed to work.89 Although the government appears to have the intention of
seeking ways to deal with this population, violations of refugee rights continue to occur.
On 6 January, SUARAM released an urgent appeal after receiving information that the
government planned to deport a group of 17 Sri Lankan asylum seekers and refugees.
Consequently, it was reported that the assistant deputy director of the KLIA Immigration
Detention Centre, Shainurin Shaari, received instructions to hold the deportation of the 17
Sri Lankans.90 On 13 January, the group of 19 Sri Lankans were released after UNHCR
had processed their asylum claims.91
On 13 January, it was reported that trafficking of Burmese refugees by Immigration
officers was still occurring. Malaysiakini reported that 10 Burmese refugees were taken
from Belantik Immigration Detention Centre by Immigration officers and sold to
trafficking agents.92
On 17 January, 26 asylum seekers from Burma were arrested by the Marine Operations
Force as they tried to get to Port Klang by a ferry from Pulau Ketam.93
On 22 February, Burmese refugees in Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre went on a
hunger strike to demand for UNHCR to process their asylum claims. The leader of the
hunger strike had been detained for seven months. On 24 February, UNHCR visited the
detention centre and obtained the release for 106 Burmese refugees.94
On 23 March, 42 Sri Lankan refugees and asylum seekers were arrested at Ipoh and were
detained at Langkap Immigration Detention Centre. Out of the 42, 21 were refugees
87 “Employ Refugees Instead of Foreigners, Says MTUC”, Bernama, 12 February, – Last accessed 26 November 2010
88 “Government may allow refugees to work”, The Star, 22 February, 2010
89 “Refugees’ right to work in Malaysia”, Malay Mail, 18 November, 2010.
90 “Suaram: Halt repatriation of 17 refugees”, Malaysiakini, 6 January 2010, - Last accessed 24 November 2010
91 “Authorities free 19 Sri Lankans”, Malaysiakini, 19 January, 2010.
92 “Fresh allegations on Malaysia’s refugees for sale”, Malaysiakini, 13 January 2010, - - Last accessed 24 November 2010
93 “PGM tahan 26 pelarian Myanmar”, Utusan Malaysia, 18 January, 2010.
94 “Demonstration in Malaysian camp, 106 Burmese released”, Mizzima, 25 February, 2010.
.html - Last accessed 24 November 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
recognised by UNHCR. On 31 March, UNHCR obtained the release of the refugees and
asylum seekers.
On 25 April, police arrested 75 Sri Lankan asylum seekers aboard a trawler near Batu
Uban after a 57 hour stand-off.95 On 25 May, 61 asylum seekers who were part of the 75,
went on a hunger strike as they have been detained at KLIA Immigration Detention
Centre without knowledge of what would happen to them next.96
On 17 May, eight Afghans were arrested near at the Selat Lumut Bridge en route to
Australia via Indonesia.97
On 21 May, the government announced that they would offer amnesty to undocumented
migrant workers for voluntary repatriation without being penalised. This is the third
amnesty programme with the previous two held in 2002 and 2004 respectively.98
The next day, 10 Afghans were arrested by the Marine Operations Force at Tanjung
Pengelih. They were believed to be en route to Australia via Indonesia by boat.
On 27 March, 12 Afghans and four Burmese detained at KLIA Immigration Detention
Centre escaped from the centre. They were part of the 100 victims of human trafficking
detained at KLIA Immigration Detention Centre. The Afghans were arrested by marine
police en route to Australia in October 2009 while the other four Burmese were also
arrested en route to Australia at separate incidents99. According to the Anti Trafficking in
Persons Act 2007, victims of human trafficking are to be placed in shelters and not in
detention centres.
On 5 June, a riot broke out amongst 200 Vietnamese and Burmese detainees at Ajil
Immigration Detention Centre. According to Immigration officials, the riot was sparked
by a fight between two Vietnamese detainees while the police stated that the detainees
claimed that the riot was due to poor treatment at the detention centre.100
SUARAM was informed that an estimated 500 Burmese detainees at Lenggeng
Immigration Detention Centre went on hunger strike on 12 June to protest against the
lack of water supply which had been going on for 5 days. However, it was reported that
the Immigration department denied that there was a lack of water supply at the detention
95 “Sri Lankans detained after 57-hour deadlock”, The Star, 26 April, 2010.
96 “Sri Lankan asylum seekers on hunger strike”, The Star, 27 May, 2010.
97 “8 warga Afghanistan diberkas”, Utusan Malaysia, 18 May, 2010.
98 “Govt to offer amnesty for illegals”, The Star, 21 May, 2010.
99 “16 ‘victims of human trafficking’ go missing from KLIA centre”, The Star, 29 March, 2010.
“Possible ‘inside help’ in immigrants escape from KLIA detention”, Malay Mail, 31 March, 2010.
100 “Rioters claim bad treatment at camp”, New Straits Times, 7 June, 2010.
101 “Myanmar detainees’ charge rejected”, The Star, 17 June, 2010.
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
In early October, seven Immigration officers and two foreigners were arrested under the
Internal Security Act (ISA) for human trafficking102.
On 1 August, 20 Afghans who were victims of human trafficking detained at KLIA
Immigration Detention Centre escaped. The 20 Afghans were rescued in Banting on
December 2009. They were held at the detention centre since 18 February 2010 and were
awaiting the court’s decision on their deportation.103 In response, Immigration directorgeneral
Datuk Abdul Rahman Othman stated that trafficked victims must be treated
differently from the other detainees at the detention centre.104
The second escape from KLIA Immigration Detention Centre prompted the government
to look into the conditions of immigration detention centres. Efforts to improve
conditions include posting police liaison officers at immigration detention centres105;
formation of a special committee which included prison officers to examine the
weaknesses of the detention centres106; a proposal to form a Depot Department to better
manage immigration detention centres107; separate camps for men and women detainees,
and separation for those detained for Immigration offences from criminals; and compiling
recommendations from Prisons Department for security, police as liaison officers for
logistics, the Malaysian Civil Defence Department on medical needs of detainees, and
RELA on increasing security at the external perimeters.108
Immigration D-G, Abdul Rahman admitted to poor conditions in detention centres
· Rusty and broken parameter fencing
· Single fencing with no zinc covering
· Poor lighting with no floodlights outside the camps
· Cracked walls
· Rusty and rotting grilles
· Rotting observation towers
· Deplorable sanitation system
· Inadequate water supply
· Poor ventilation
· Lack of recreational space
· Poor and dangerous wiring
· No CCTV cameras109
102 “Nine held under ISA for human trafficking”, - Last
accessed 5 December, 2010
103 “20 escapees were victims of human trafficking”, New Straits Times, 3 August, 2010.
104 “Immigration D-G ready to take rap”, New Straits Times, 3 August, 2010.
105 “Police liaison officers posted at immigration depots”, The Sun, 5 August, 2010.
106 “Panel to rope in prison officers”, New Straits Times, 3 August, 2010.
107 “Detention depots proposed for illegal immigrants”, The Star, 6 August, 2010.
108 “Complete makeover”, New Straits Times, 25 August, 2010.
109 “Security woes at detention centres housing foreign criminals”, - Last
accessed 4 December 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
Public confidence in the judiciary, already seriously undermined by various events in
recent times, continued to be eroded, largely because of the unchanging legal
environment and the government’s delaying of sorely needed amendments of preventive
detention laws.
Despite making repeated assurances to the contrary, amendments to the Internal Security
Act, Emergency Ordinance Act and Dangerous Drugs Act continued to be delayed. Post
the historical March 2008 elections, the government made some efforts at placating the
voices calling for changes in legislation, but as of 1 December no amendments have been
tabled in Parliament.
Also, as seen in the ongoing sodomy trial of former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar
Ibrahim, justice is rarely seen to be done. Widely seen as politically motivated, Anwar
was charged with sodomy (a crime in Malaysia, even amongst consenting adults) in June
2008, four years after his release from prison on a similar charge. The High Court has
continually denied Anwar’s legal team access to clinical reports pertinent to the case110.
This effectively strips Anwar to the right to a fair trial, enshrined in the Federal
Constitution. Popularly known as Sodomy II, Anwar’s trial has attracted international
attention, with many parties expressing concern as to the fairness of the trial.
Anwar Ibrahim is not the only Malaysian denied his constitutional right to justice. As
seen in the many cases of detention under the Internal Security Act, Dangerous Drugs
Act and especially the Emergency Ordinance, many other individuals are denied their
right to representation.
In March, a high profile case illustrating the failure of the judiciary and of the police to
respect the legal process occurred. Lawyer Amer Hamzah alleged that ten plainclothes
officers obstructed him from performing his duty when the officers re-detained his client,
actor Khaireyll Benjamin Ibrahim (also known as Benjy). The police officers had
approached and surrounded Amer and his client as soon as Benjy was released on police
bail, then forcibly separated the two by physically restraining Amer. The police officers
only released Amer after Benjy was taken away111. In recent years, there have been many
cases of individuals being rearrested moments after being released, either on bail or after
a court decision.
110 “Anwar fails to obtain clinical notes”, – Last
accessed 1 Dec 2010
“Anwar's sodomy trial: Karpal's request for clinical reports denied”, -
Last accessed 1 Dec 2010
111 “Bar Council sends memorandum of protest to police”,
sends-memorandum-protest-police - Last accessed 5 December 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
On 23 April 2010, SUHAKAM announced the findings of its public inquiry on the arrest
of five lawyers of the Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Centre (KL LAC) in 2009, while they
were on duty to provide legal representation to 14 individuals arrested for holding a
candlelight vigil. On the arrest, SUHAKAM found that:112
i. The arrest and detention of the five lawyers did constitute a denial of legal
representation and a contravention of Article 5(3) of the Federal Constitution and
section 28A of the Criminal Procedure Code, and therefore was a clear violation of
human rights; and
ii. There was no justification or necessity to arrest and detain the five lawyers under
section 27 of the Police Act 1967 as they were there not participating in the cause of
their clients but simply performing their duties as legal practitioners in defence of
the 14 individuals who were earlier arrested. It is therefore a clear transgression and
a violation of human rights.
In its findings, SUHAKAM also named the two most senior police officers at the police
station as being responsible for committing the violation of human rights in this case. The
Commission stated that “such violations of human rights occurred because the relevant
officers did not understand nor appreciate the functions and duties of defence lawyers in
the context of the criminal justice system.”113 The Commission therefore recommended
that police officers must be made to be familiar with the constitutional provisions in
relation to fundamental liberties and human rights, as well as the basic local and
international instruments pertaining to human rights.114
However, as in the case of most other SUHAKAM recommendations, the government
did not take any action against the two senior officers. The inaction of the government
was confirmed by the Home Ministry on 9 June 2010, when an opposition MP queried if
any action was taken against the two police officers as a result of SUHAKAM’s report
on the matter.115
Following the amendments to the enabling law of SUHAKAM in 2009 which set a twoterm
limit to the tenure of Commissioners in office, thus disqualifying all former
Commissioners from re-appointment, seven new Commissioners were appointed in June
112 SUHAKAM (2010), “Decision of the Public Inquiry into the Arrest and Detention of Five Lawyers of
the Bar Council Legal Aid Centre”, 23 April (pp. 40-41), available at:
7902.pdf – Lat accessed 23 June 2010.
113 Ibid.
114 Ibid.
115 Jawapan Lisan Dewan Rakyat Ahli Parlimen Kelana Jaya, Gwo-Burne Loh [Parliamentary Oral Reply
at the Dewan Rakyat by Member of Parliament of Kelana Jaya, Gwo Burne Loh], 9 June, 2010.
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
2010. Former diplomat Hasmy Agam was named as the Chairperson of the Commission,
along with six other new commissioners.116
However, the announcement came only after a significant delay. For a period of more
than one month – from 23 April to 7 June 2010 – SUHAKAM operated without any
Commissioners in office following the end of the respective terms of the previous batch
of Commissioners. A news report on 12 May 2010 stated that SUHAKAM already
received 136 complaints but no investigation or further action could be made because of
the absence of Commissioners.117 As the new Commissioners were only appointed on 7
June 2010, the number of complaints could have presumably increased from what was
reported. Further, the selection process was almost entirely shrouded in secrecy - from
the appointment of the selection committee to the nomination and appointment of
Upon assuming office, the new set of Commissioners sought to redeem its battered image
due to the international scrutiny over its lack of compliance with international standards
over the past two years. For instance, SUHAKAM sought play a more proactive role in
the cases of allegations of abuse of migrant workers in the construction of the new palace
site where they were barred from entering the site, but insisted on going in to check on
allegations of abuses.118 SUHAKAM reported that there was neither evidence of abuse
against the migrant workers nor were there any children living on the site. However, an
Opposition lawmaker from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), Lim Lip Eng refuted
SUHAKAM’s findings, offering up evidence to the contrary.119
Nonetheless, soon after taking office in June 2010, a controversial position was reflected
by a statement of SUHAKAM’s new SUHAKAM Chairperson Hasmy Agam on a
complaint of violation of the civil and political rights of students filed with the
Commission on 24 May 2010. The complaint was filed by four students facing
disciplinary action from their university for being present at a political campaign during a
by-election and allegedly “showing support, sympathy or opposition to political parties in
Malaysia” – an offence under the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA).
Despite the clear violation of human rights in this case, the new SUHAKAM Chairperson
said that the Commission found that it is “not an issue which falls within the scope and
purview of SUHAKAM.”120 At the same press conference, Agam was ambivalent to the
issue of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) rights, saying that while “it
116 “Hasmy Agam new Suhakam chairperson”, - Last accessed
23 June 2010
117 “Complaints pile up in empty Suhakam”, - Last
accessed 23 June 2010
118 “Suhakam barred from entering new palace site”, - Last
accessed 5 December, 2010.
119 “DAP MP claims proof kids living on new palace site”,
- Last accessed 5 December, 2010.
120 “Suhakam’s new commissioner addresses student issues”,
suhakams-new-commissioner-addresses-student-issues - Last accessed 23 June 2010
Malaysia Civil and Political Rights Status Report Overview 2010: Overview
concerns a person’s right, but at the same time we have to look into our local, cultural
and religious contexts.”121
Even a SUHAKAM Commissioner’s movements can be restricted, as in the case of
Commissioner Jannie Lasimbang’s conditional entry permit to Sarawak. The conditions
explicitly state that, among others, she should “not be involved directly or indirectly in
activities that are detrimental to the interests of the state” or “associate with organisations
that actively instigate or encourage Sarawak natives to carry out activities that are
detrimental to the interests of the state.”
Despite promises of reforms and greater respect for human rights, the Najib
Administration continues to display intolerance towards dissent and free speech in 2010.
The proposed cyber-sedition law signals the increase in further crackdowns on the
freedom of expression.
State institutions such as the police continue to suffer from a serious crisis of public
confidence due to the failure of the government to implement long-awaited reforms such
as the recommendations made by the Royal Commission on the Police.
Even the recent announcements on amendments to the Internal Security Act (ISA),
concerning the proposal to reduce the period of solitary confinement from 60 days to 30
days, fails to address the fundamental flaw in the Act itself – detention without trial. It is
clear that the government wishes to keep the ISA as a convenient tool to instil fear and
stifle political dissent.
Other repressive laws like the Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Police Act
remain firmly in place, compromising the government’s pledges to uphold civil liberties
and to create an information society.
Police shootings recorded throughout 2010 reveal the continuing lack of accountability
and the impunity of law enforcement agencies.
Taken together, all the incidents and controversies that have happened in 2010 signal a
return to the Mahathir era, a period of stifling control, abuse of powers and suppression
of human rights.
121 Ibid.

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