News / Asia

Malaysia PM to End Unpopular Law Ahead of Re-election

Masked activists with upside down newspapers silently protest restrictions on Malaysian media, Aug. 2010. Prime Minister Najib says he will review publishing laws (file photo).
Masked activists with upside down newspapers silently protest restrictions on Malaysian media, Aug. 2010. Prime Minister Najib says he will review publishing laws (file photo).
Luke Hunt

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced plans to repeal a tough 51-year-old law allowing detention without trial and other pieces of legislation criticized by rights groups.

Najib made the announcement amid speculation he will call an early election. Under his proposals, the widely detested Emergency Ordinance and the Internal Security Act (ISA) will be abolished. The law was initially used to combat a communist insurgency and, more recently, to detain suspected terrorists.

Thousands detained

Over the past half century, thousands have been detained under the ISA. Often they were mere critics of the government while others in recent years were suspected Islamic militants.

The government will also amend publishing laws that require newspapers and other media outlets to seek a license, which must be renewed annually. Critics argue the renewal requirement stifled the media's independence.

Prominent lawyer and human rights advocate Ambiga Sreenevasan gave a mixed response to the repeals, saying their success would depend upon how quickly they are implemented.

"There were already rumors around about the repeal of the ISA and this is something they had promised a couple of years ago," he said. "But the repeal of the Emergency declaration is very significant because with that go all the preventative detention laws."

Sreenevasan said repeals of media restrictions do not go far enough, because they retain government licensing provisions.

"Instead of a yearly renewal, they're saying once the renewal is granted it stays unless revoked," he said. "The power of revocation is still there."

Public gatherings

Najib also pledged a government review of laws requiring police permission to stage public gatherings. In July, pro-electoral reform rallies in Kuala Lumpur turned violent after police declared them illegal and moved in, beating and tear gassing protesters.

Sreenevasan, also president of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, was a key organizer of the rally.

"[Government officials] say they will protect freedom of assembly but not allow street demonstrations," he said. "A peaceful street demonstration is really fundamental when you talk about freedom of assembly. In my view they didn’t do anything for freedom of assembly."

Opinion polls

Public opinion polls indicate Najib's popularity has declined sharply, particularly since July's electoral reform rallies. Many believe the electoral system is biased towards the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and its lead party, the United Malays National Organization, or UMNO.

Malaysia has also witnessed rising racial tensions and increased uncertainty over its economic outlook since the 2008 election, when UMNO was returned with a smaller majority.

That poor showing resulted in Najib ousting his predecessor and taking the top job. He now has to win back lost ground and the repeal of repressive laws is being seen as an early start to re-election campaigning.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid