Human rights activists are expressing concerns about Malaysia’s new security law, which gives the Prime Minister broad powers to declare states of emergency, impose curfews, seize property, and carry out arrests.
The BBC reports United Nations concerns that the law “might encourage human rights violations and lead to restrictions on free speech,” while Amnesty International warned the law “empowers the Malaysian authorities to trample over human rights and act with impunity.”
“With this new law, the government now has spurned checks and assumed potentially abusive powers,” Amnesty International deputy director Josef Benedict said in a statement reported by the Associated Press.
Newsweek notes the law is going into effect a month after a grenade attack on a bar in Kuala Lumpur, which the Malaysian government has blamed on ISIS.
Much of the skepticism about the new law centers on how the current Prime Minister, Najib Razak, is under investigation for a billion-dollar embezzlement scandal. The U.S. Justice Department is attempting to seize assets that were purchased with money allegedly looted from an economic development fund. The culprit, identified as “Malaysian Official 1” in incriminating documents, is widely suspected to be Najib.
“The US move has heightened expectations of a return of anti-Najib protests in Malaysia, but the new law would enable security forces to quash public demonstrations,” Deutsche Welle speculates.
“My government will never apologize for placing the safety and security of the Malaysian people first. These laws were necessary, and other countries have since followed our lead,” Prime Minister Najib insisted.