S'WAK POLLS Human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) called on the Sarawak government today to review and amend all laws that restrict the rights to freedom of expression.
In this regard, AI said, the state government should lift the entry bans on politicians to ensure their freedom of movement during an election period.
It added that it viewed the curbs as an attempt to silence government critics.
"We believe the controls imposed by the state are part of a larger campaign by the government to silence critics since the 2013 general election, using an array of restrictive laws," AI said in a statement.
It said the authorities should amend all laws to bring them into line with international human rights laws and standards.
"Restricting political adversaries from entering Sarawak is a blatant violation of the right to freedom of movement and association, and also stifles the right to freedom of expression, all enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"Under international law, everyone lawfully within the territory of a country should have liberty of movement, as well as be able to freely associate with others and to express him or herself," said AI.
'Entry bans breached constitution'
The group said restrictions on such freedoms must be narrowly defined, including through applying the principles of lawfulness, necessity and proportionality, in accordance with international human rights standards, and not be left vague as it may be prone to arbitrary use.
Furthermore, it noted that the entry bans also breached Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution, which explicitly provides for the right of every citizen to freedom of movement, expression and association.
"The Sarawak authorities should reform arbitrary decision-making processes that impose travel restrictions that violate the right to freedom of movement.
"The government should also ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights at the earliest opportunity, incorporating its provisions in domestic laws, and implement it in policy and practice," AI said.
The rights watchdog was responding to the recent surge of entry bans by Sarawak immigration authorities on scores of opposition politicians and government critics from the state, ahead of tomorrow's state election.
The politicians were planning to carry out peaceful and legitimate political activities in the run-up to the election for the 82-seat Sarawak state legislative assembly.