Foreign Minister Anifah Aman's defence of the country's human rights record against criticism from Amnesty International was blasted as "hypocritical" today by PKR’s Padang Serai MP N Surendran.
Surendran, who is a human rights lawyer, said aside from general statements that Malaysia was committed to human rights, the minister made no effort to address the crackdowns on people in the country and instead sought to justify them.
"Anifah’s statement that these basic freedoms of Malaysians are respected by the government is hypocritical, untrue and bordering on the absurd.
"If there is freedom of expression as claimed by Anifah, why are opposition leaders being investigated under Section 124B of the Penal Code merely for demanding answers on the 1MDB scandal?
"Why are so many opposition leaders, activists and elected representatives investigated or charged under the notorious Sedition Act 1948?
"Does the foreign minister realise that over the past year, more people have been investigated or charged under the Sedition Act than in any comparable period since independence in 1957?" Surendran ( photo ) asked in a statement.
Section 124B of the Penal Code is on activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy.
Surendran pointed out that there was increasing use of various widely-worded penal laws to stifle dissent, including the Sedition Act 1948, Printing Press and Publications Act 1984, Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and Sections 504 and 505 of the Penal Code on alarming the public and criminal defamation.
"Is this an example of the ‘overall progress’ in human rights that Anifah boasts of in his statement?" he asked.
Surendran noted that Anifah in his defence had resorted to the standard response that "curbs on freedom of expression" were necessary to safeguard the peace, harmony and security of the country.
'Anifah's reply pathetic, embarrassing'
"Anifah’s reply to Amnesty International is pathetic, embarrassing and plainly unacceptable.
"It answers nothing, and only confirms the disregard of the fundamental rights of Malaysians.
"Anifah himself cannot possibly believe these shallow excuses he has given in response to Amnesty’s criticisms," Surendran said.
He said such defence cannot stand in the face of Amnesty International, which is a distinguished international body as its opinions carry weight and are noted around the world.
"There is only one real and proper response that the government can properly make.
"The government must immediately announce the repeal or amendment of all those unjust laws mentioned above, and all investigations/prosecutions under those laws must cease," said Surendran.
Last week, Amnesty International secretary-general Salil Shetty, after a visit to Malaysia, concluded that the country’s human rights was on an "alarming downward spiral".