Human rights denied, movements against government in Kuala Lumpur
by Hal Swindall

The latest case involves the "Metaga Terbang" film crew, which has been the target of vandalism, intimidation and death threats. Even with the new premier Anwar Ibrahim, the situation does not seem to be improving. The work of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia to protect freedoms. From human trafficking to child labor and gender equality, there are many unresolved issues.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - NGOs and activist groups are attacking the government in Kuala Lumpur for the gradual deterioration of human rights in Malaysia, with testimonies and reports of widespread abuses despite the country being a signatory to international human rights agreements.

One of the latest complaints is from last month and is signed by Amnesty Malaysia along with 74 other movements to call for an end to harassment against the makers of the film Metaga Terbang. The film tells the story of a young woman who explores concepts and narratives about the afterlife in different religions, in response to the terminal illness that had struck her mother. 

The film crew that made the film was subjected to vandalism involving damaged cars, death threats and hostile police questioning, as well as intimidation of various kinds. The activist movements' statement recalls other restrictions imposed by the executive on free speech, including attacks and restrictions on freedom of assembly.

And also last month, an in-depth investigation into cases of discrimination against women was filed with the UN.
These are just some of the repeated violations committed in the current year against rights that are supposed to be natural and established in a democracy.

An alarming situation, which confirms the picture drawn by Human Rights Watch (Hrw) in its 2022 report on Malaysia in which abuses that occurred under the previous prime minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, are listed. Violations that do not seem to have waned under the current government led by Premier Anwar Ibrahim.

In addition, the U.S. State Department's 2022 report on Malaysia reports widespread human rights violations ranging from killings to torture, inhumane treatment to harsh imprisonment, arbitrary arrests to lack of judicial independence.

Also, restrictions on free speech with harassment of journalists and national human rights groups, interference with freedom of assembly and religious freedom, corruption, gender-based violence, and widespread exploitation of child labor.

Among domestic rights movements, the most active is the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) with timely and detailed studies of the situation.

As an official agency created by Parliament in the 1990s, it has long called for the abolition of the Sedition Act of 1948 to protect freedom of speech and strongly opposes regulations on preventive detention and the guarantee of due process.

In response to the many complaints it receives about trafficking in persons, Suhakam serves as an intermediary between complainants and relevant government agencies.

And it notes with alarm the State Department's downgrade of Malaysia to Level 2 (2019) for failure to meet minimum standards in combating human trafficking.

The commission promotes training courses for police, immigration department and anti-drug departments, as well as making regular visits to prisons, promoting investigations into suspicious deaths in prison and promoting ratification of the treaty against torture (Uncat).

However, in spite of repeated human rights violations Kuala Lumpur remains at the top of the most desirable cities for expatriates and migrant workers. It remains to be seen whether the Madani Way principles promoted by Prime Minister Anwar will produce real human rights change in the country.