PETALING JAYA - The allegations that Malaysia's human rights record is on an alarming downward spiral is unwarranted as it is based on unsubstantiated and selective information, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.
"It unfairly dismisses the overall progress and efforts of the Government of Malaysia in ensuring the enjoyment of human rights for all Malaysians," said Anifah in a statement on Monday.
His statement was in response to the comments made by Amnesty International secretary-general Salil Shetty at the conclusion of the 16th International Anti-Corruption Commission meeting in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Anifah said that Amnesty International was too fast in judging Malaysia's human rights record and had failed to give due credit to recent and ongoing efforts by the Government in the promotion and protection of human rights.
"It is necessary to point out that the Government of Malaysia has been steadfast in its commitment to uphold the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in Articles 5 to 13 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia," he said.
According to Anifah, the Government remains committed to upholding the right of freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of assembly.
"However, it is important to note that the exercise of such rights is not absolute and may be subject to limitations on certain grounds including public order, morality, and national security.
"In the context of the complex multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysian society, the Sedition Act 1948 is necessary and relevant to guarantee that freedom of speech, opinion and expression are not abused and will not lead to tensions that would threaten the harmony, peace and security of Malaysia," said Anifah.
He said that the application of the law "does not hinder a vibrant democracy" and remains as a useful preventive measure to protect Malaysians from "extreme and fanatical movements".
He added that the Sedition Act curbs religious intolerance, incitement to hatred, racial and religious extremism. "Similarly, the legal framework in respect of the right to freedom of assembly in Malaysia, including its restrictions, are compatible with international human rights norms and standards."
Anifah also said that Malaysia has been providing assistance on humanitarian grounds in addressing the influx of irregular migrants. "Malaysia has taken serious action in curbing trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and remains committed to working with other relevant partners to address this problem through the various existing international and regional mechanisms."
In conclusion, Anifah said that every country has the right to determine the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens.
"The Government of Malaysia believes that a balance must be struck between the full enjoyment of rights and freedoms and its limitations as provided through legislation, to protect the essential principles that have been upheld by the nation thus far under the Federal Constitution.
"The Government of Malaysia is committed to the protection of all its citizens, and will take necessary steps to ensure that every citizen enjoys fundamental freedoms in a manner which does not impinge on the exercise of the rights of others, or is a threat to the security and safety of the nation," Anifah added.