Biweekly Human Rights Roundup

Human Rights Round-up (15/11/19) Rohingyan refugees, Orang Asli rights, and PH delay in repealing draconian laws…

Written by Kamilia Rozlan

In the news

1. Rohingyan Refugees: Bangladeshi intercepts Malaysia-bound boat carrying 119 Rohingya

From MalayMail:

“Bangladesh coast guards intercepted a wooden boat carrying 119 Rohingya refugees bound for Malaysia as it was about to sink, officials said yesterday, the latest in a spate of trafficking incidents this year.


“We found that the boat was taking water due to engine failure,” [coast guard spokesman Saiful Islam] said. “It was about to sink. Had we not reached there in time, it would have sunk.”

Islam said the 119 people on board, including 58 women and 14 children, were heading for Malaysia.”

2. Corruption in the Foreign Workers Industry

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has “revealed that there is a lot of abuse of power, corruption and widespread exploitation involved in the hiring of foreign workers in the country.” – Free Malaysia Today

3. Update on the Kg Kuala Koh Tragedy

Earlier in May this year, 15 members of the Batek Orang Asli village in Kg Kuala Koh died due to a mysterious disease. More than 100 people were hospitalised. It was later discovered that the deaths and illnesses were caused by a measles outbreak.

As promised, the Batek have been given financial aid from the government. According to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the government has spent RM 3.3million to help the Batek.

Comment: Although ASASI welcomes the financial support as promised by the government, it is worth asking whether this sum is sufficient to compensate for the decades of neglect faced by the Batek. This is a good step forward, but is it enough?

4. Deaths in Prison

The family of the late Mr. Mageswaran, who died in a Seremban prison over two years ago, wants an inquest held over his death.

5. PH Gov Taking Too Long to Repeal Draconian Laws, as Promised

From the South China Morning Post:

“Firdaus Husni, chief human rights strategist of the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights, said Mahathir’s government had been slow to act on the laws.

“Parliamentary mechanism for checks and scrutiny have not been utilised, and while there is a more open engagement with civil society on proposed law reform, this has been inconsistent,” she said.

“The Pakatan Harapan manifesto talks of introducing a ‘green paper’ as a step towards a meaningful engagement between the government and the civil society, but we have yet to see this in practice.”

In the courts

 6. Kota Baru High Court Dismisses AG’s Case on Behalf of Orang Asli

The Kota Bharu High Court has dismissed the Attorney General’s application to stop the Kelantan government and five private companies from further encroaching into Orang Asli settlements in Gua Musang.

Putrajaya filed the injunction on the basis that the Kelantan government’s decision to grant logging licenses to private companies to enter native land occupied by the Temiar Orang Asli (the “Temiar”) deprived the Temiar of their rights to native land and resources thereon. 

The court refused to grant this application as “no injunction can be given against the government (state or federal), directly or indirectly” (per Judge Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh).

Although the court did not grant the injunction against the Kelantan government and the private companies, it did make an order that no further encroachment will be allowed in the disputed area. According to Dr Yogeswaran Subramanian, the decision is a “win-win” result.

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