• Jacob Dyrby Laursen
4. semester, Udviklingsstudier, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
This paper discusses the universality of human rights and the emergence of an international human rights regime. In this framework the Malaysian case is discussed and the national perspective on human rights is regarded as a separate discourse. The realist understanding of states in the international system, at times influenced by international regimes and civil society constitute the conceptual framework. The ethnic balance and race-based politics, with UMNO at the forefront are important determinants in the national discourse.
Malaysia has, as only a few other countries, not ratified any of the two basic covenants or willingly integrated into the human rights regime. In Mahathir’s rhetoric human rights are biased and represent Western values, not universal values. The human rights regime became institutionalized in 1976 but was weak until after the Cold War, where the institutional pressure increased on the Mahathir administration. Malaysia ratified two conventions in 1995 after the Vienna Conference, despite just having countered the universal notion with the ‘Asian Values’-concept. The regime is today almost universal with more than 160 countries having ratified both covenants, but historically the covenants have been highly contested.
The national pressure to integrate in the international regime was not evident until the late 1990s. Many restrictive laws combined with large growth rates improving the everyday life of the Malaysians are probable causes why a bottom-up dynamic did not take root. Mahathir lost political credibility after the financial crises and the sacking and humiliating of his former deputy. The internet, a more united political opposition, civil society empowerment, and internationalization, are factors that might unite the different communities to confront the government with a common voice and it might be transforming the Malaysian human rights discourse.
In 2010 for the first time Malaysia seemed to have willingly ratified a human rights treaty (CRPD), but is still reluctant to ratify the covenants. Despite regular democratic elections, Malaysian society is still weighed down by a continued oppression by the opposition from the government who controls the media, businesses, a biased electoral system and judiciary all favoring the ruling BN-coalition, and an institutionalized prohibition to question the ethnic balance. All these significant factors make the process of integration into the human rights regime seem long and hard. If the communities joined together in an uprising to defeat the government it will probably be violently averted as resembling racial tensions and a threat to national security by the government. This sums up the main paradox of the Malaysian case.
Antal sider109
ID: 63504142