Pota and amended Sedition Act erode human rights, says Amnesty Malaysia

Source: The Rakyat Post

The Rakyat Post file pic
The Rakyat Post file pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 8, 2015 — Amnesty International (AI) Malaysia has expressed its opposition to the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) and Sedition Act 1948, which it said were serious violations of human rights.

Pota, passed in Parliament in the early hours yesterday, had no place in a democratic country like Malaysia, said AI Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshini, who hoped the Act would not be gazetted for use.

“This is a dressed-up Internal Security Act (ISA).

“The revival of detention without trial through Pota points to a government thumbing its nose at calls for greater protection of fundamental rights in Malaysia.

“The act presumes guilt over innocence, which is not how a justice system is supposed to function.

“It also denies a detained person’s access to lawyers and this is completely and utterly unacceptable,” Shamini said in a statement to The Rakyat Post.

She noted that Pota allowed suspects to be detained for a maximum of 59 days before they were brought to face a Prevention of Terrorism Board that could order an extension of the detention up to two years.

With this being akin to the ISA that was abolished, Shamini described Pota as being similarly “repressive, sending Malaysia back to the dark ages”.

“The law is allowing any suspected individual to have his freedom and liberty taken away even before he is found guilty of any crime. This is a serious blow to human rights in Malaysia.”

As far as the jurisdiction of the Board was concerned, she said decisions by them prevented the possibility for any judicial review and was another example of Pota violating human rights.

The amendments to the Sedition Act tabled in Parliament yesterday was a further sign of the “erosion of human rights”, she said.

She said the denial of bail that was added in the Act was a questionable move, one that was normally reserved for suspected offenders of crimes like murder.

“Of late, we have seen how the Sedition Act was used to clamp down on the freedom of expression and assembly, targeting activists, Opposition lawmakers, journalists and lawyers.

“The introduction of stiffer penalties under the proposed amended act begs the question whether there would be a further clampdown on dissent.”

To her, both the acts would only intensify criticisms against Malaysia that had drawn local and international attention for its handling of critical voices.

“Rest assured, the strengthening of the Sedition Act, as well as the introduction of Pota will bring forth further international condemnation on Malaysia’s rapidly shrinking space for fundamental rights.”