The government of Malaysia continues to persecute members of the political opposition. Most recently authorities detained overnight (and then released) opposition parliament member Nurul Izzah for alleged sedition – a move, according to rights activists, aimed at intimidating the opposition into silence.
Reacting to her detention, Nurul Izzah reportedly said, “I am extremely angry, and we all should be, because as parliament members we should be free to criticize the government of the day without reprisal.”
To further restrict freedoms of expression and association “will only lead to further erosion of important pillars of Malaysia’s democratic system,” said U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.
Nurul Izzah has become the latest to be arrested in a sedition crackdown by Malaysia’s government that has investigated, charged or convicted dozens over the past year. Additionally, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was convicted on February 10 of sodomy and sentenced to five years in jail. Mr. Anwar has denied the charge and calls it a “political conspiracy” designed to undermine political gains his People’s Justice Party has achieved in recent elections. In 2008, Mr. Anwar led his party to unprecedented gains and made further inroads in the 2013 elections.
The United States was deeply disappointed with the conviction of Mr. Anwar following a government appeal of the original verdict finding him not guilty.
The Malaysian government’s recent investigations and charges of sedition against critics raise serious concerns about freedoms of expression and association, and rule of law in Malaysia.
The United States encourages Malaysia to take steps to apply the rule of law fairly, transparently, and apolitically in order to promote confidence in Malaysia’s democracy, judiciary, and economy.
As U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice made clear in a meeting with Malaysian leaders last year, countries who uphold the human rights of all their citizens are ultimately more prosperous and more stable.