Malaysian government has a very funny way of celebration Human Rights Day in 2014 – by summoning the US envoy for expressing support for human rights in Malaysia!

The Malaysian Government has a very funny way of celebration the Human Rights Day yesterday on 10th December 2014 – by summoning the United States Ambassador Joseph Yun to expressing support for human rights in Malaysia!

What was Yun’s offence?

In an interview with Malaysiakini, Yun said that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s decision to retain the Sedition Act raised human rights concerns.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman disagrees, claiming that the Sedition Act 1948 does not hinder a vibrant democracy and a “preventive measure to ensure that no parties would incite religious and racial tension that could jeopardize peace and stability in the country”.

Anifah may even believe that Yun’s remarks were unwarranted and disappointing, but is this justification for him to flex his muscles and call up the US Ambassador for a “dressing”?

Why don’t Anifah go the whole hog and demand that the United States President Barack Obama recall Yun and replace him with a more amenable Ambassador – as Anifah will only joining the lengthening list of Cabinet Ministers who are making a fool of themselves in both the national and international arena?

The United Nations resident co-ordinator for Malaysia, Michelle Gyles-Mcdonnough has said that the United Nations is keeping “careful watch” on Putrajaya’s decision to retain the Sedition Act 1948, after the Prime Minister did an about-turn on earlier pledges to repeal the controversial law.

Is Anifah also going to summon the UN resident co-ordinator and haul her on the carpet over her statement at a public forum in conjunction with World Human Rights Day 2014 that “the UN has made very clear publicly our position on the Sedition Act…we do believe it restricts freedom of expression” as unwarranted and disappointing?

In fact, a group of United Nations rights experts, including David Kaye, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Gabriela Knaul, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders have made a joint call to the Malaysian government to stop criminalizing dissent which threatens free expression, declaring:

“The Sedition Act is reportedly used in a way that prevents Malaysians from expressing and debating, freely and openly, a diverse range of political opinions and ideas.

“It is time for Malaysia to adjust its legislation, including the 1948 Sedition Act, to be in line with international human rights standards, and take firm steps towards the effective enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression.”

Is Anifah going to reprimand the UN resident co-ordinator, declare the the group of UN Special Rapporteurs related to human rights as “persona non grata” in Malaysia and warn the UN to stop interfering in Malaysia’s business or to close down the UN office and related UN agencies Malaysia?

This is not only a most extraordinary manner for the Malaysian government to celebrate the Human Rights Day in 2014, but to marks its membership in the United Nations Security Council as well as ASEAN Chair for the new year.

Anifah should be reminded that the United Nations Charter makes clear a member of the UN Security Council should contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security and support the other purposes of the UN, including promoting universal respect for human rights.

Or is Malaysia going to prove the “doubting Thomas” in international society right that Malaysia’s membership in the UN Security Council, together with Angola and Venezuela, would be a “problematic” era for human rights issues?

Anifah should heed the words of Gyles-Mcdonnough that although the UN does not have the power to compel Malaysia – or any country for that matter – to repeal any questionable legislation, this does not mean Malaysia is spared public and international scrutiny, especially since the country has yet to ratify core conventions on human rights prescribed by the UN.

Anifah should take heed of SUARAM’s Human Rights Report in Malaysia 2014, which said that human rights in Malaysia under Najib’s administration have hit a new low.

The report said freedom of expression “took a heavy toll” this year‎, with 44 people being investigated, charged or convicted under the Sedition Act 1948.

The 44 include opposition politicians, activists, lawyers, academics, Muslim preachers as well as students.

The United States Ambassador to Malaysia had told Malaysiakini that the United States is “puzzled” with Najib’s decision to backtrack and retain the Sedition Act.

The answer is very simple – Najib’s U-turn on the Sedition Act was to court instant popularity at the UMNO General Assembly and had nothing to do with any professional security assessment of the country’s laws.

This was why the former Information Minister, Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin, blogged a day after Najib’s U-turn on the Sedition Act in his presidential speech at the UMNO General Assembly on Nov. 27:

“If Datuk Seri Najib is a smart politician, he would be able to understand that the thunderous applause of the delegates, who welcomed his announcement to maintain the Sedition Act, was actually Umno’s rejection of his leadership that is liberal and weak.

“If he hadn’t made that announcement, all the Umno members would have buried him, and his future in Umno would have been destroyed.”

Anifah’s claim that the Sedition Act 1948 does not hinder a vibrant democracy and Malaysia needs a “preventive measure to ensure that no parties would incite religious and racial tension that could jeopardize peace and stability in the country” is not only dishonest and untrue, but very self-serving.

This is because the tensions caused by the rhetoric and politics of hate, bigotry and extremism emanate from UMNO/BN side or their out-sourced NGOs, and not from the Pakatan Rakyat but it is the PR leaders, activists and intellectuals who are victimized by selective and malicious investigation and prosecution under the Sedition Act.

Anwar Ibrahim and I have been investigated by the police under the Sedition Act and it is a probably a matter of time before we are hauled to court and charged under the Sedition Act. Is this to promote democracy and being fair to the opposition?

The Sedition Act is a draconian and repressive law, especially as it is abused in Malaysia where the real extremists are allowed to go scotfree while the moderates are charged for sedition; where the law is used not based on the activities or offenses but based on the political inclination of the accused.

A good case in point is the former Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Kedah Wanita UMNO delegate, Datuk Dr. Mashitah Ibrahim who tried to incite racial and religious conflict, hatred and tensions with the completely baseless and false allegation that the Chinese community in Kedah had burnt the Quran page by page at a prayer ritual.

Police recorded a statement from Mashitah on Sunday, 12 days after she had made that inflammatory and irresponsible allegation and 10 days after two DAP MPs, Teo Nie Ching (Kulai) and Kasthuri Patto (Batu Kawan), my political secretary Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud and DAP activist Syefura Othman had lodged a police report against Mashitah for her hate speech?

Why did the police treat with Mashitan with kid-gloves when Pakatan Rakyat leaders would have ended up in the lock-up immediately if they had made the same type of reckless incendiary hate speech like that of Mashitah?

Was the police unable to get evidence of Mashitah’s inflammatory hate speech making false allegation that the Chinese community in Kedah had burnt the Quran page by page at a prayer ritual – when the video of Mashitah’s speech had been on You Tube all this time?

Furthermore, how is Anifah to explain for the police investigation of PKR Taman Medan Assemblywoman in Selangor, Taniza Talha under the Sedition Act for an article criticising budget allocations to the prime minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor’s Permata project?

This is a very clear-cut case of the Sedition Act becoming an oppressive instrument to suppress democracy and stifle the opposition, where the Sedition Act is used not based on the activities or offences, but the person involved as to whether from Pakatan Rakyat or not; and whether he or she had criticised an UMNO personality who cannot be questioned or criticised – like Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah