The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) expresses serious concern over the recent series of attempts and measures taken by the authorities in the wake of the still-unfolding and unresolved national controversy affecting the country, by restricting and limiting the fundamental rights of Malaysians. This includes the freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of information and press freedom among others.
The commission is also deeply concerned at the various forms of discrimination by the authorities against people based on their political affiliations.
The commission is appalled at the methods employed by the authorities to manage this controversy, and in particular deplores the decision of the Home Ministry to impose a three-month suspension of the publishing permits of two business newspapers owned by The Edge Media Group, purportedly for publishing articles on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which it deemed to be prejudicial to public order and national interests.
The commission also regrets the incomprehensible decision by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to block access to the Sarawak Report website on the grounds of national security and public order.
The commission firmly believes that all Malaysians have a right to freedom of information and access to differing opinions, and accordingly calls on the authorities to immediately revoke the suspension order of the publishing permits of the two newspapers owned by The Edge Media Group, and to respect and ensure respect for press freedom, as well as to preserve the independence and diversity of the media.
The commission also regrets the unexplained and perplexing decision of the Immigration Department of Malaysia to limit the freedom of movement of several individuals, glaringly opposition politicians and human rights activists.
To date, the department has failed to inform all persons affected by the travel ban the reasons for its decision. Such restrictions therefore appear to be arbitrary, unreasonable and disproportionate, contradicting not only national legislation, but also international law and human rights norms.
In this regard, the commission urges the authorities to immediately clarify the current situation concerning the travel ban, and to notify all citizens whose exit from Malaysia is restricted, including those restrictions that have been imposed illegally or erroneously, as well as to provide sufficient opportunity to appeal the decision of the department in each case.
The commission reminds the authorities that any action taken must be strictly in accordance with existing laws and not ultra vires the provisions of the Federal Constitution, and shall be consistent with internationally accepted human rights principles.
In conclusion, the commission calls on the authorities to be mindful of Malaysia’s international image and standing, taking into account Malaysia’s membership of, and constructive contributions to, important organs of the United Nations both in the past and at present, including its current membership of the United Nations Security Council in which Malaysia intends to make constructive contributions during its two-year term in the context of international peace and security which would require the support of other members of the council.
The commission also calls on the administrative and judicial authorities to respect the principles of proportionality in applying the law and trusts that the judiciary will deal with these cases in a fair and just manner in the best traditions of an independent and impartial judiciary. – July 27, 2015.