Amnesty International yesterday accused the Malaysian government of a “disturbing assault” on freedoms by banning a leading coalition of human rights groups.
The Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs issued a statement on Wednesday declaring the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs (COMANGO) illegal because the group and 39 of its 54 components were not registered with the government.
Ministry secretary-general Mohamad Khalid Shariff accused COMANGO of pursuing “rights that run contrary to Islam,” including gay, lesbian and transgender issues.
The coalition angered authorities last year when it submitted a report to the UN condemning the Muslim-majority nation’s human rights record ahead of a UN rights review.
Amnesty, whose Malaysian arm is under COMANGO, denounced the move.
“Outlawing COMANGO is a deeply disturbing action aimed at silencing important critical voices that have advocated on the world stage for Malaysia to uphold international human rights law and standards,” Amnesty International Malaysia researcher Hazel Galang-Folli said in a statement.
It remains unclear how the ban will affect COMANGO activities or those of its members.
Malaysia’s 57-year-old ruling coalition has long applied a firm hand to rights groups and other critics, using arrrests and court charges to apply pressure.
Facing public discontent over corruption and authoritarianism, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2011 promised a more democratic environment, but the opposition and other critics labelled the pledge a cynical vote grab, alleging continued curbs on democratic freedoms.