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Msian Govt. Committed In Upholding Freedom Of Speech

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I take note of the comments made by Amnesty International Secretary, General Salil Shetty, at the conclusion of the 16th International Anti-Corruption Commission meeting in Kuala Lumpur recently. I must state the allegations that Malaysia’s human rights record is on an alarming downward spiral is unwarranted as it is based on unsubstantiated and selective information. It unfairly dismisses the overall progress and efforts of the Government of Malaysia in ensuring the enjoyment of human rights for all Malaysians. It is necessary to point out that the Government of Malaysia has been steadfast in its commitment to uphold the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in Articles 5 to 13 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

2. Likewise, the Government of Malaysia remains committed to uphold the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of assembly as guaranteed in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. However, it is important to note that the exercise of such rights is not absolute and may be subject to limitations on certain grounds including public order, morality, and national security. Such limitations are in consonance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular its Article 29 (2).

3. In the context of the complex multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysian society, the Sedition Act 1948 is necessary and relevant to guarantee that freedom of speech, opinion and expression are not abused and will not lead to tensions that would threaten the harmony, peace and security of Malaysia. Its application does not hinder a vibrant democracy and remains as a useful preventive measure to ensure and protect Malaysians from radical, extreme and fanatical movements apart from curbing religious intolerance, incitement to hatred, racial and religious extremism. Similarly, the legal framework in respect of the right to freedom of assembly in Malaysia, including its restrictions, are compatible with international human rights norms and standards. The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 allows for peaceful assembly while at the same time is important in preventing disturbance of the peace and riots, which could easily arise from incitement, purportedly in upholding the rights of people of a democratic country.

4. Although Malaysia does not recognize the status of refugees or asylum seekers, Malaysia has been providing assistance on humanitarian grounds and continues to cooperate on a case-by-case basis with the UNHCR and other relevant international organisations. Malaysia emphasizes that it has taken necessary measures on humanitarian grounds, beyond its international obligations, in addressing the influx of irregular migrants. In addition, Malaysia has taken serious action in curbing trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and remains committed to working with other relevant partners to address this problem through the various existing international and regional mechanisms.

5. It is unfortunate that Amnesty International was too fast in judging Malaysia’s human rights record on the basis of misconceptions of the circumstances of recent events. It failed to give due credit to recent and ongoing efforts by the Government of Malaysia in the promotion and protection of human rights for its citizens. It also failed to acknowledge the progress that Malaysia is making in the promotion and protection of the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities in Malaysia as well as in fulfilling the economic, social and cultural rights of its citizens.

6. Malaysia had received the recent visits by the UN Special Procedures to Malaysia, namely, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The Government of Malaysia had constructively engaged with the Special Rapporteurs with an open mind and in a transparent manner in the spirit of advancing efforts to promote and protect human rights in the country. These visits highlighted certain institutional, policy and implementation gaps which the Government is genuinely addressing. Another initiative is the ongoing work on Malaysia’s National Human Rights Action Plan which would address the priorities and gaps concerning the protection of human rights in Malaysia.

7. On the international front, Malaysia continues to place a high importance on contributing to the promotion and protection of human rights in the multilateral fora, in line with our standing as a responsible state actor. We had twice been elected to the UN Human Rights Council, for the terms 2006-2009 and 2010-2013. This demonstrates the trust and faith placed upon Malaysia by members of the international community, based on our constructive and pragmatic approach to human rights. In this regard, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs Malaysia, I participated in the High Level Sessions of the Human Rights Council, to elevate Malaysia’s engagement in this important forum. During that trip I also met with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, and discussed ways to enhance cooperation between Malaysia and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

8. In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that every country has the right to determine that the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens must take into account the unique nature of its society which includes diversity of cultures, religions and traditions of the particular country. Therefore, every sovereign country rightfully deserves the full respect to decide on what is best for its society. The Government of Malaysia believes that a balance must be struck between the full enjoyment of rights and freedoms and its limitations as provided through legislation, to protect the essential principles that have been upheld by the nation thus far under the Federal Constitution. The Government of Malaysia is committed to the protection of all its citizens, and will take necessary steps to ensure that every citizen enjoys fundamental freedoms in a manner which does not impinge on the exercise of the rights of others, or is a threat to the security and safety of the nation.



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