Hornbill Unleashed

September 7, 2014

Is Malaysia turning into a police state?

Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who has been advocating moderation as the panacea to all global conflicts, appears to be displaying the opposite in handling national matters, according to Dr Lim Teck Ghee. — Reuters picturePATHMA SUBRAMANIAM

The recent crackdown on freedom of expression and dissent has analysts warning that Malaysia is not far from turning into an authoritarian state contrary to the democratic, moderate and progressive image the Barisan Nasional (BN) government shows the world at large.

Putrajaya’s attempts to maintain public order in the 21st-century through colonial-era laws is a risky one, the pundits add, with a nod to the growing resentment over the recent arrests and prosecution of federal opposition politicians, students, an academic and the latest, a reporter for a web-based news agency under the Sedition Act 1948 since Election 2012.

“It is very clear that the country has gone on a sharp downward path with the most recent round of sedition cases and the way in which little or no distinction is made between the exercise of political power and how the law is selectively and arbitrarily interpreted and implemented,” Dr Lim Teck Ghee told Malay Mail Online in an email interview.

While Malaysia is not yet a police state in the classic sense, the Centre for Policy Initiatives director said the repressive control exhibited by the powers-that-be over social and political expression shows an attempt to emasculate the current democratic system.

Lim said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who has been advocating moderation as the panacea to all global conflicts, appears to be displaying the opposite in handling national matters, especially with regards to racially-provocative remarks uttered by his ministers and hawks within BN’s main party, Umno.

“Is the prime minister simply looking at preserving his Umno constituency during these developments which have been fuelled by his party’s hardliners? Is he just disconnected or not concerned? Or does he have a hidden authoritarian agenda which is now emerging?” posed Lim.

“Whatever is moving or not moving the prime minister during this critical period, he must know that his image as a moderate leader has taken a major beating in the country and around the world,” Lim said.

Political think tank chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan also pointed out that the Najib administration’s actions “speak otherwise”, especially with police acting speedily to arrest and question federal government critics.

“Whether we like it or not the police force is seen to be part of the government administration, and not independent,” the CEO of Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs said.

“This is an era where the more you stifle dissent, the more dissent you will get… clearly choices made by some people who are calling the shots is wrong,” he added.

Three Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers have been charged with sedition in the recent few weeks, including one who uttered the words “Umno celaka” against the country’s biggest political party during a debate in the Penang legislative assembly.

The latest targets to come under the sedition scope are news portal Malaysiakini and its journalist Susan Loone, over a report on a police crackdown on Penang’s controversial volunteer patrol unit (PPS).

On Sunday, 155 PPS members were rounded up and held overnight at the police headquarters in George Town, Penang, after taking part in a state-organised National Day parade — days after which it was declared illegal by the Registrar of Societies.

Soon after, the country’s police chief took to Twitter to warn that those who insult the government or attempt to rile up the public into action on the Internet will be hauled up to face the law.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Professor Datuk Dr Samsu Adabi Mamat, however, disagrees that Putrajaya is rolling back on its pledges to dismantle outdated laws, even as he justified the government’s right to resort to the Sedition Act when “the opposition is perceived to becoming more influential”.

Professor Dr Jayum Jawan of the National Council of Professors said the sweep of PPS members, in particular, shows the police have their priorities misplaced.

“It is a citizen volunteer body that banded together to take care of the security and welfare of their neighbourhoods… the authorities should be welcoming their services unless they overstep their boundaries,” said Jayum, who is deputy head of politics, security and international affairs cluster on the council.

The access to various sources of information means people can evaluate between fair action and poor governance, he added.

“Shoving your rules down people’s throat just means people are going to resent you,” he warned.

Political scientist James Chin said a hardline stance is an effective tool to create fear to suppress dissent.

Like Wan Saiful and Jayum, the Monash University lecturer believes a backlash against the BN government is imminent, though he said the impact may only be visible at the next general election due only in 2018, if the public sentiment snowballed.

“There are many fence sitters out there who have not taken sides and these actions will force them to take a position… and you won’t like (it),”



  1. When was Malaysia ever NOT a police state?

    Comment by Hornbill Leashed and Gagged — September 7, 2014 @ 11:38 PM | Reply

    • It is now PRDM instead of PDRM.
      Polis Raja Di Malaysia.

      Comment by Syabudin — September 8, 2014 @ 2:55 PM | Reply

  2. Now in the cocoon stage, which needs to call a halt before it develops into a monster.

    Comment by Owl — September 7, 2014 @ 10:20 PM | Reply

  3. But the facts still remain when certain groups did assert about somethings which have adverse effects on the the well being of the the society at large, there were no actions taken whatsoever. But recently, all sorts of indictment/prosecution taking place under that sedition act. It is really……which is inherently incredible to believe. .

    Comment by Matt — September 7, 2014 @ 5:03 PM | Reply

  4. I am a Malaysian. I am not an UMNO member but many like me enjoy our freedom because we don’t have any ultra motive living in a country like Malaysia. If you have ultra motives of causing trouble to the country, then of course you have problems. Live your life and stop complaining. Let the process of law take over. If they are not guilty, they will be set free in fact they are set free by the police. The French police are doing the same to citizens suspected of causing trouble but if they are not guilty they will be set free. So whats the problem? In the US, the police are more brutal and so is China and Russia. The police are just doing their job screening suspected bad hats. The drug pushers, suspected murderers and such. So what is wrong with what the police are doing. If you don’t like to live in Malaysia, go to India or China or the States. Perhaps you will find the kind of freedom that you desire.

    Comment by Wan Chik — September 7, 2014 @ 3:30 PM | Reply

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