MARLENA NIP WRITES – Malaysian citizens are watching human rights disappear right before their eyes.

Prime Minister Najib Razak and his fellow lawmakers passed new crime-prevention legislation in response to recent organized crime outbreaks. These amendments did not pass without heated debate. In recent months, there have been a number of robberies and high-profile, public shootings targeting businessmen. Najib firmly believes that passing amendments on the Prevention of Crime Act will help control these offenses.

The changes to this piece of legislation are being criticized by opposition leaders and international leaders alike. The deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, believes “Malaysia is taking a huge step (backwards) on rights by returning to administrative detention practices,” which jeopardize the people’s liberty.”  Tian Chua, a senior opposition politician, also believes that these amendments are unconstitutional.

Much of the nation is worried about civil liberties because, once upon a time, citizens were guaranteed freedom from unfair accusations. Kamaruddin Jaafar, an opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, said Malaysian citizens were promised the same things from the Internal Security Act, a piece of legislation that in practice held political dissidents without charge. After the promise was broken, it’s no mystery why Malaysians are wary.

Before the legislation can come into full effect, Senate approval is required.  This shouldn’t be a problem, as the Barisan Nasional is the ruling coalition that controls the Senate. The new amendments calls for a “Crime Prevention Board” including one former senior judge to issue a two-year detention to any of the accused. Najib assures that the crime amendments will not be abused. Further, he strongly believes that without this amendment to the law the public will continue to become victims of these crimes. Is this enough to warrant the taking away of human rights?