Annual Report: Malaysia 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Malaysia 2010

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Head of state Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin
Head of government Najib Tun Razak (replaced Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in April)
Death penalty retentionist
Population 27.5 million
Life expectancy 74.1 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 12/10 per 1,000
Adult literacy 91.9 per cent

Freedom of expression was restricted, with bloggers prosecuted and peaceful demonstrators frequently arrested. At least two people died in police custody. Migrant workers, refugees and asylum-seekers faced arrest, detention, and ill-treatment in detention camps. Malaysia rejected recommendations made under the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, and to ratify the UN Refugee Convention and the UN Migrant Workers Convention.

Background

Najib Tun Razak became Prime Minister in April. Political tensions increased in Perak state, located north of the capital Kuala Lumpur and formerly controlled by the opposition People's Alliance (PA), following three defections from the party. After a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Sultan of Perak ordered the PA Chief Minister to resign in February. During a state assembly session in May, when the National Front government representative Zambry Abdul Kadir was expected to be appointed as the new Chief Minister, the opposition Speaker V. Sivakumar was forcibly removed by police officers. Dozens of short-term arrests were made before and after the assembly session.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression was severely curtailed, with the authorities using various laws, including the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA 1998), to crush critical opinion.

  • Independent news portal Malaysiakini reported on and posted two videos of a protest held in August by Muslims against the relocation of a Hindu temple to their neighbourhood. The government's internet regulatory agency ordered Malaysiakini to remove the videos, threatening to prosecute them under the CMA 1998, alleging offensive content. Charges against them remained pending.
  • Following a nationwide crackdown on bloggers in March, eight bloggers faced imprisonment and fines after being charged under the CMA 1998 for posting critical comments against the Sultan of Perak over the Perak political crisis. An opposition parliamentarian, Karpal Singh, was charged under the Sedition Act for threatening to sue the Sultan, claiming that the Sultan breached the State's constitution. One blogger pleaded guilty with the remaining cases still pending. All were freed on bail.
  • Mohamad Asri Zainul Abidin, a religious leader, was charged in November under the Selangor Islamic Administration Enactment for conducting a religious discourse without government authorization. His trial remained pending while he was freed on bail. If convicted, he faces two years' imprisonment and/or fines of up to 3,000 Malaysia Ringgit (US$873).
  • In October, several police reports were lodged against Sisters in Islam, a women's rights organization, after they criticized caning as a punishment for Muslims. At least two of their leaders were questioned by police under the Sedition Act.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions

The authorities arrested hundreds of peaceful demonstrators, detaining them for up to 24 hours, in an attempt to stifle dissent. Five prisoners of conscience – leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) – were released. Ten other ISA detainees were also released. Nine people reportedly remained in detention under the ISA.