Pakatan Harapan’s watershed victory must be followed by institutional and human rights reform
11 May 2018
Lawyers for Liberty wishes to congratulate the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition and their Parti Warisan Sabah allies on their historic win in the 14th General Elections on 9 May 2018.
With the departure of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, we now have the opportunity to see through the many critical institutional reforms and human rights commitments that PH promised in their ‘Buku Harapan’ manifesto. Listed below, LFL calls for the following to be implemented as a matter of priority:
1) Establish Royal Commissions of Inquiry into various government-linked scandals (Promise 13)
With the credibility of the previous administration largely damaged in their handling of the 1MDB scandal, it is necessary that the new government act swiftly in ensuring that the various scandals are resolved, and that justice takes its due course. We are fully supportive of PH’s promise to form commissions of inquiry to investigate further the misdeeds in 1MDB, FELDA, MARA, and Tabung Haji, and we trust that they will carry out their duties professionally.
We also call for the Auditor-General’s report into 1MDB and any other relevant documents to be declassified from the Official Secrets Act.
2) Separation of the Office of the Attorney-General from the Public Prosecutor (Promise 15)
It is critical for the administration of justice in Malaysia that the government’s top lawyer, the Attorney-General cannot continue to act also as the Public Prosecutor. Offenders on either side of the political divide must be taken to task for their wrongdoings, and the Public Prosecutor must be able to bring charges without fear of political interference in his/her work. As a political appointee, the Attorney-General should come and go with the government of the day, whilst the Office of the Public Prosecutor must operate within the Attorney-General’s Chambers, completely independent from the government.
In addition to the above, we also expect that all politically-motivated charges be dropped immediately, and any appeals relating to similar cases be withdrawn or not challenged. It is inconceivable that oppressive laws should continue to be misused to persecute dissidents, activists and (former) opposition leaders, and we trust that the law will not be abused in the same manner as the previous government.
3) Restore public trust in the judiciary and the Royal Malaysian Police (Promises 19 & 20)
It is necessary that the process of appointment and promotion of judges be made transparently and independently, and the independence of the judiciary be rectified and safeguarded. Appointment of judges must be made on the basis of seniority, merit and experience, and certainly not be influenced by political considerations. We recall the recent controversial re-appointment of the Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal by the previous BN government as a reminder of the serious need to regain public confidence in this hallowed institution.
Further, the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) must be depoliticised and allowed to carry out their main work of crime prevention, maintaining public order and protecting national security, and not be misused as a tool to crack down on political opponents and dissidents. Politically-motivated monitoring and arrest must be stopped immediately.
We strongly urge the PH government to carry out their promise of establishing the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) in order to maintain an effective check and balance on the police force. The credibility and accountability of the PDRM in serious matters such as death in custody and police shooting cases must be upheld, and IPCMC is the only way to do so.
PDRM must further strictly adhere to the various standard operating procedures that are already in place when carrying out their duties, so as to prevent further abuse of power and needless deaths.
4) Abolish oppressive laws (Promise 27)
To ensure that poor and outdated legislation can no longer be used to oppress any citizen ever again, we strongly urge the PH government to follow through on this commitment and repeal or amend draconian laws including but not limited to:
- Sedition Act 1948
- Prevention of Crime Act 1959
- Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) 2015
- Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA)
- Communications and Multimedia Act 1998
- Official Secrets Act 1972
- Peaceful Assembly Act 2012
- National Security Council Act 2016
- Anti-Fake News Act 2018
- Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984
- Universities and University Colleges Act 1971
- Various outdated provisions in the Penal Code
We also expect the government to abolish the death penalty.
In order to do so, we recommend that a Law Commission be set up to review all these legislation and others and make the appropriate recommendations.
5) Ratifying International Human Rights Treaties (Promises 26 and 59)
Although not explicitly stated in the ‘Buku Harapan’, it is imperative that Malaysia accedes to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, recognising the rights of refugees and finally protecting them in accordance with international standards.
We also urge the government to look into ratifying other core human rights treaties, in order to bring Malaysia in line with international standards: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); and Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
We further call upon the government to withdraw all reservations on treaties that we have already ratified i.e. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
6) Resolving the issue of statelessness (Special Commitment for the Indian Community, Promise 1)
While the initial promise of resolving statelessness within 100 days of the PH government was made towards the Indian community, we fully expect for this issue to be resolved for all stateless persons, irrespective of their race or descent. We note that the citizenship law and procedure have been misinterpreted by the BN government, causing undue hardship to the thousands of stateless people nationwide.
We are heartened by the fact that these commitments and more have been promised by the PH government, and we are hopeful for the future of human rights in Malaysia with the arrival of this new government. Nevertheless, we will continue to play our role as part of the larger civil society and seek to ensure that these promises will be kept in the days ahead.
Lawyers for Liberty