The APEC Summit meeting in Kuala Lumpur is supposed to be the climax of Mahathir’s 17 years’ of premiership of Malaysia, and the pride and symbol of Malaysia’s new-found stature in the international arena, but it is now threatening to be the very opposite.
The APEC Summit should have been an occasion for Malaysia to show the world that Malaysia has reached a new maturity in the development of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in keeping with 1998 as the Human Rights Year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but as the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Tajol Rosli admitted in Parliament today, 1998 has become a year of great embarrassment for human rights in Malaysia.
In fact, 1998 is a "black" year for democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Malaysia, with the catalogue of human rights violations as the cases of Lim Guan Eng and Anwar Ibrahim, the encroachments on press freedom and the indiscriminate use of the Internal Security Act and other draconian laws to suppress dissent and the freedom of speech and assembly.
Although APEC is an economic and not a political gathering, Mahathir must demonstrate the government’s commitment to uphold human rights, democracy and rule of law so as not to make a mockery of the 1998 Year of Human Rights.
Up to now, the Malaysian Government seems to have adopted the stance that it does not care two hoots about international opinion whether about the state of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Malaysia or whether 1998 is the International Human Rights Year.
It will be most unfortunate for Malaysia’s long-term interest for international opinion to gain the impression or perception that Malaysia is taking the road of Myanmar as far as democracy, human rights and the rule of law is concerned - for Malaysia will be forfeiting all the international goodwill built up over the decades.