Amnesty International has called on Malaysia not to “stall vital human rights reforms” as the country undergoes a governmental shakeup.
Following the unexpected resignation of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad earlier this week, Mahathir agreed to stay on as interim PM and oversee the new government at the request of the king.
During this uncertain period of transition, Amnesty International has called on the country to not lose sight of its “reform agenda.”
“Changes in government in Malaysia must not stall vital human rights reforms. Up to now, the government’s commitment to human rights change has been slower than desired, but nonetheless commendable as first steps,” Amnesty International’s Regional Director Nicholas Bequelin said.
“Announcements such as the intent to limit the use of the death penalty, relax limitations on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and undertake long-stalled police reforms were encouraging.”
Bequelin said it would be “disastrous” if any new government reversed the “reform agenda,” adding the country’s new leadership must continue to respect human rights.
“A litmus test will be the progression of crucial reform processes, including the abolition of the Sedition Act and the mandatory death penalty in full, as well as undertaking other rights reforms that were promised to the Malaysian people when they elected the government back in 2018,” he said.
Decades-old political rivals Mahathir, 94, and Anwar Ibrahim, 72, have both sought the prime minister’s job, leaving the king to decide who governs the country next or whether fresh elections should be called.
Mahathir on Feb. 26 proposed a unified administration without political party allegiances.
The resignation of Mahathir broke apart a coalition with Anwar that had scored a surprise election victory in 2018, and was not part of a pre-election promise that Mahathir would eventually cede power to Anwar.
Anwar said on Feb. 26 he was opposed to forming a “backdoor government” and that three parties from the former Pakatan Harapan ruling coalition had proposed his name to the king as candidate for prime minister.
“We wait for the decision of the king,” he told a news conference.