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Malaysia: New Prime Minister Needs New Rights Agenda

Malaysia: New Prime Minister Needs New Rights Agenda

(Bangkok) – Malaysia’s new prime minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, should commit to respect the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, which have long been suppressed in the country, Human Rights Watch said today. Malaysia’s king appointed Ismail prime minister on August 20, 2021, four days after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin resigned. Ismail is the country’s third prime minister in three years. “Malaysian authorities over the past year have taken a very heavy-handed approach to any criticism of the government by harassing and prosecuting peaceful protesters, journalists, and activists,” said Linda Lakhdhir, Asia legal advisor at Human Rights Watch. “The appointment of a new prime minister offers an opportunity to reset attitudes about the importance of a more open, rights-respecting society in Malaysia.” During the 17 months that Muhyiddin served as prime minister, the authorities responded aggressively to criticism of government policies and performance. In the past two months alone, police have opened multiple investigations into peaceful protests and criticism.

The new government should end these and other efforts to investigate and prosecute people simply for exercising their civil and political rights. For example: “Under former Prime Minister Muhyiddin, the authorities engaged in wholesale harassment and intimidation of peaceful critics,” Lakhdhir said. “Those in power in Malaysia should recognize that everyone has a right to criticize their performance and make a commitment to protecting the rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.”.

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