Malaysia of the 21st century exemplifies how greed drives fluid and hypocritical policies meant to oppress the populous in order to enrich the pockets of those in power. A former British colony, Malaysia celebrated its independence in 1957. Since then, it had become the 3rd largest economy in Southeast Asia, 35th in the world. The IMF Executive Board commended the Malaysian government this year for its economic performance in recent years. The IMF describes a booming and safe economy – stable growth, higher per-capita income, low poverty, and declining inflation. The World Economic Forum found the Malaysian economy to be the 25th most competitive globally. These euphoric descriptions follow a devastating blow to the Malaysian economy due to the 1997 Asian financial crisis – a blow which arguably lasted until 2005. In the macroeconomic sense, Malaysia is a thriving and resilient player, adapting-but-not-adopting neoliberal agendas to increase and secure wealth.
The Malaysian government enjoys a firm grip over its populace, facilitated by laws and policies that enable arbitrary seizing of civil liberties. Police can arrest people without a warrant, detainees suffer ill-treatment and torture, prisoners can stay for a maximum of two weeks in segregation cells, and deaths while in police custody are staggeringly high. In 2012, Malaysian government extended police authority under SOSMA (Special Offences Special Measures Act) to include police authority to extend arbitrary detentions to 28 days before filing charges while suspending detainees’ access to family and lawyer for 48 hours. Under SOSMA, police detained human rights activist and Member of Malaysian Parliament Maria Chin Abdullah in 2016 for 11 days. In 2015, police used SOSMA to detain former Batu Kawan Umno deputy chief Khairuddin Abu Hassan and his lawyer Matthias Chang after court ordered the former’s release. All three arrests came about to counter negative images against the government from spreading in the public.
SOSMA is but one example of a set of laws the Malaysian government had put in place in order to guarantee its authority over citizens that might have been protected under human rights documents or agendas. The National Security Council (NSC) Act of 2015 grants the Prime Minister authority to declare a state of emergency, suspending rule of law to permit arrests and evacuations (through lethal force if needed) in designated areas known as security areas. The NSC Act potentially contradicts UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) Article 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, and 26. Similarly, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (POTA) allows authorities to extend detention to 21, 38, and even 60 days with minimum reasoning, making a mockery out of internationally accepted Habeas Corpus laws (which guarantee the rights of a detainee to be brought to a judge to present the legal grounds for said detention). The trajectory of the Malaysian government in past years had been to anchor in its laws provisions that place an individual’s liberties in the hands of law enforcement to be used arbitrarily.
More severely, Malaysia did not ratify any agreement to include protections against enforced disappearance, which is the secret abduction of an individual the government deems as a threat – without confirming the individual’s whereabouts. A series of such abductions helped form CAGED (Citizen Action Group on Enforced Disappearance) on May5, 2017. On February 13, 2017, Pastor Raymond Koh was abducted. “In the attack, which was caught on CCTV, at least ten men in black SUVs blocked a major road during broad daylight, bundled Raymond out of his car and abducted him in under a minute. He has not been seen since,” reported Premier Magazine. Koh’s abduction won media attention as his wife tried to reason with the government to at least confirm Koh’s whereabouts and safety. Koh’s abduction was not the only one. In November 2016, social activist Amri Che Mat was also abducted. Witnesses describe Amri surrounded by four dark vehicles and at least one armed person. Suspicions rose that these abductions might be due to concerns of conversions, having abductees from clergy. Such was the case with Joshua and Ruth Hilmy, two pastors last seen on November 30, 2016. To this day, the Malaysian government provided zero explanations to these missing people. Despite ostensibly allowing other religions in the country, the Malaysian government enforces draconian laws to herd Malaysians to obedience under Sharia-influenced, human-rights-violating laws.
As a whole, Malaysia preaches modernity, moderation, and pluralism but acts as a tyrannical body that stomps on all accepted civil and human rights to facilitate the government’s interests. Malaysians have almost no protections from the law or the government and can be incarcerated at any moment for no stated reason. That way, the Prime Minister can assure Malaysia will operate like North Korea – complete admiration of the administration and complete obedience to the ruler’s whims.