Malaysia despite its modernity, stable economy and periodic elections hides a rotten core underneath the veneer of respectability as a “moderate and democratic Muslim nation”. In truth, the state is essentially a one party Barisan Nasional coalition state that has governed the country since political independence in 1957. State institutions including the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers act at the behest of the ruling coalition – with dissidents, opposition politicians, human rights activists and members of the public bearing the brunt of the disproportionate, arbitrary and oppressive laws and policies.
As a result of these laws and policies, many are subjected to arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention; detention without trial; state violence, torture, shooting and custodial death. They are unable to exercise their constitutional rights and civil liberties as they are subjected to police threats, violence and arrest; impeded from accessing legal counsel once under arrest; subjected to unnecessary remand order as punishment; prosecuted for frivolous charges including for illegal assembly, rioting, public disorder, obstruction, sedition and publishing false news. There are also numerous other restrictions that affect the freedoms of the press and information, students and trade unions that are incompatible with a modern and democratic nation that Malaysia claims to be.
Illiberal and outdated laws continue to empower the executive and its agencies to act arbitrarily despite the presence of the Malaysian Constitution that guarantees civil liberties including liberty of the person; equality; prohibition of banishment and freedom of movement; freedom of speech, assembly and association; and freedom of religion. The erosion of these rights in the form of legislation and executive decisions made pursuant to them, have become the norm while the rights and freedom themselves have been only exercised and upheld intermittently.