U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Malaysia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Malaysia, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa7bc.html [accessed 25 May 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
MALAYSIAMalaysia is a federation of 13 states with a parliamentary system of government based on periodic multiparty elections in which the ruling National Front coalition has held power since 1957. The coalition headed by Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad increased its majority in a 1995 general election. Opposition parties actively contest elections, although they hold only about 12 percent of the seats in the federal Parliament. An opposition party controls one state government. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, however, government-sponsored constitutional amendments and legislation have undermined judicial independence and increased executive influence over the judiciary in sensitive cases. The Royal Malaysian Police have primary responsibility for internal security matters. The police report to and are under the effective control of the Minister of Home Affairs. The Prime Minister also holds the Home Affairs portfolio. There have been instances of abuse by some police officers. Foreign direct investment has played a vital role in economic development. High growth rates in exports of manufactured goods, such as semiconductors, have greatly reduced reliance on traditional commodity exports such as tin, rubber, and palm oil. Consistently strong economic growth has led to significant reductions in poverty, an improved standard of living, and more equal income distribution. In the second half of 1997, the effects of the regional financial crisis, in addition to growing international concerns over economic policy, contributed to a marked depreciation of the ringgit (the national currency) and a substantial decline in the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. The Government continued to arrest and detain citizens without trial, and prolonged pretrial detention is a problem. The Government sometimes limited judicial independence and freedom of assembly, association, speech, and the press. Partly as a result of these limits, opposition parties could not compete on equal terms with the long-ruling governing coalition. A Western correspondent was sentenced to 3 months' imprisonment for contempt of court in a case that raised questions about freedom of the press and judicial impartiality. A United Nations special rapporteur and a prominent jurist faced libel charges for their criticism of the judiciary. The trial and harassment of a prominent human rights activist on criminal charges under the Publications Act also continued. Religious worship is subject to some restrictions. The Government continued to impose long-term restrictions on movement without due process hearings. Violence against women and child abuse remain problems. Police did not always act on reports of domestic violence. Some discrimination against indigenous people and ethnic minorities, and restrictions on worker rights, persisted.