The world is watching Najib's double-speak

Last updated on 03/11/2014 - 11:57
03/11/2014 - 18:00

Alyaa Alhadjri

BANGKOK: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak must stop his double-speak on Malaysia’s aim to be a regional leader for global moderation as the international community is “not blind nor deaf” to the fact that he has failed to address mounting racial-religious tension back home.

Regional human rights organisation Forum-Asia Human Rights Defenders programme manager Dr Renato Mabunga told theantdaily that it is “very clear” to observers that Najib’s speeches in Malaysia has been the opposite of what he had said at various international forums following Malaysia's election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Top of the list of things that must be done, said Renato, was for Najib to fulfill his own promise of legal reforms and repeal all repressive laws starting with the archaic Sedition Act 1948.

“What they hear from you now will be retained…if Malaysia is trying to be a leader, all international communities, even sub-regional countries will be keenly observing him.

“They will be able to see whether Malaysia through its prime minister has the dominant influence to say that it should be a leader and a moral ground to call for human rights in the international arena,” said Renato who also referred to Malaysia’s role as chairman of the Asean Summit next year.

Forum Asia, a regional grouping of human rights NGOs including Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), has been a strong critic of Najib’s lack of political will to address various concerns linked to human rights abuses in Malaysia.

Instead of using Malaysia’s elected position in the UN council for its own political gains, Renato said Najib must show his sincerity and implement necessary changes in Malaysia before calling on other countries to do the same.

Najib, who spoke from Milan after the UNSC decision was announced last month, had reportedly outlined five priorities for Malaysia: "Malaysia aims to advance moderation globally; advocate mediation as an approach to conflict resolution; promote UN peacekeeping operations; facilitate the peace-building process in strife-torn countries and pursue deliberations on the UNSC's comprehensive reformation.”

It has been previously noted that Malaysia's fourth appearance as a UNSC council member comes at a time when moderate thinking Malaysians are coming under siege from Malay-Muslim right-wing groups and their pressure on the government to retain archaic laws designed to stifle the people's freedom of expression.

From resistance against Oktoberfest, touching dogs and Halloween, there have been a string of controversies linked to alleged attempts at spreading “liberalism” values among Muslims, seen as a threat to traditional Malay-Muslim dominance in Malaysia.

Former de-facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim in a recent blog posting, however, said that the government should cease being a member of the United Nations and join the Islamic State (IS) rebel movement if it “cannot accept liberalism”.

"If you are a member of the UN and the Security Council, then you are subscribing to a liberal world.

"This league of nations is established on principles of human rights, minority rights and women rights," said Zaid.

Meanwhile, on Malaysia’s role as Asean chairman, Renato noted that Asean’s progress has been lagging behind other regional groupings, including in terms of development.

“This is because, it (Asean) seems afraid to go one step forward in terms of really promoting human rights and linking human rights and development in the region.

“If there is a Sedition Act in Malaysia right now and many people have been accused under that Act, it is the moral responsibility of people in Asean to go and oppose, show some solidarity with the Malaysian people, to counter this ‘very anti-human rights Act’,” he added.

As part of its support for the anti-Sedition Act movement, Renato said Forum Asia will also be sending its representatives as observers to the Nov 5 hearing to challenge constitutionality of the pre-Independence legislation, filed by Universiti Malaya law professor Dr Azmi Sharom last month.

A number of ongoing sedition trials have also been postponed pending outcome of the legal challenge.

The writer is a participant of the ongoing Seapa Fellowship 2014

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