Wednesday, 10 December 2014

UN puts Malaysia on 'CAREFUL WATCH' after Najib's Sedition repeal U-turn

PETALING JAYA - The United Nations (UN) will follow closely Malaysia’s progress in reforming the Sedition Act 1948, after the federal government did an about-turn on earlier pledges to repeal the controversial law.

The UN’s resident coordinator for Malaysia, Michelle Gyles-Mcdonnough, said the world body is keeping “careful watch” on Putrajaya’s decision to retain the legislation, especially after having made a string of statements urging the country to do away with the colonial-era law.

“The UN has made very clear publicly our position on the Sedition Act... we do believe it restricts freedom of expression,” she said at a public forum last night in conjunction with World Human Rights Day 2014.

Late last month, Prime Minister and Umno President Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced at his party’s annual general assembly that the Act will be retained, after intense pressure from conservative groups within his party and among NGOs opposed to its repeal.

The announcement followed a series of arrests and legal action taken against opposition lawmakers, activists, academics and a journalist over the year under the Sedition Act.

Prior to this, Najib pledged in 2012 to replace the Act with laws on national harmony — a pledge he repeated twice more — as part of legal reforms to afford Malaysians greater civil liberties.

Despite Malaysia’s recently election as a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council, Gyles-Mcdonnough stressed last night that the UN does not have the power to compel Malaysia — or any country for that matter — to repeal any questionable legislation.

This, however, does not mean Malaysia is spared public and international scrutiny, especially since the country has yet to ratify core conventions on human rights prescribed by the UN, she noted.

Gyles-McDonnough said the country needs to make sure that whatever proposed amendments to the Act need to bring it in line with international standards on human rights, especially in providing “more clarity and precision around the fences” so the public know what constitutes seditious behaviour.

“We will continue to urge Malaysia to be responsible in enabling the freedoms and the full realisation of rights of citizens in this country,” she said. -Malay Mail

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