PETALING JAYA, 28 May 2009: For the first time in its annual human rights report for Malaysia, Amnesty International (AI) has highlighted racial discrimination as one of several human rights violations in the country.
The 2009 report said that racial discrimination was institutionalised in Malaysia, particularly in government-backed affirmative action policies for bumiputeras such as the New Economic Policy, in land ownership, employment and education.
Compiled by the AI headquarters in London, the report cited the example of the outcry in response to Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s proposal to open up 10% of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) places to non-Malay Malaysians.
It also noted that UiTM has been opened only to Malay Malaysians for the last five decades.
“These policies have resulted in the exclusion of the poor from minority groups from enjoying equal opportunities,” said AI Malaysia campaign coordinator K Shan during a press conference today.
Control over dissent
The AI report also said that the government continued to tighten control over dissent, and curtailed the right to freedom of expression and religion.
The reported cited the examples of bloggers Syed Azidi Syed (better known as Kickdefella) and Raja Petra Kamarudin who were detained under the Sedition Act. The Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) was also invoked to suspend Tamil daily Makkal Osai‘s publishing permit in April 2008.
Also noted was the authority’s threat to revoke the publishing permit for Catholic newspaper The Herald for using the word “Allah” under the PPPA in May 2008.
“The PPPA needs to be repealed to allow for more media freedom,” said Shan.
AI executive director Nora Murat also called on the government to abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA) and implement the recommendations made by Suhakam in their 2003 report titled Review of the ISA 1960.
“We also urge the government to remove all conditions imposed on the Hindraf leaders upon their release (from ISA detention),” said Shan.
Politicisation of religion
The AI report also noted that the politicisation of religion markedly increased in 2008.
“People continued to face barriers to conversion from Islam,” it noted.
It documented the case of Kamariah Ali, who was sentenced to two year’s jail by the syariah court for renouncing Islam.
The report also noted that “no action was taken” against protesters who disrupted a Bar Council forum on conversion issues in August 2008.
The report noted the continuing discrimination against asylum seekers and refugees who are treated as illegal foreigners, citing widespread abuse by Rela.
Suhakam commissioner Dr Denison Jayasooria, who was also present at the press conference, said Malaysian politicians lacked the political will to respond to these issues even though substantial studies have been done.