Unveiling the Shadows: The Impact of COVID-19 Measures on Human Rights in Malaysia

Unveiling the Shadows: The Impact of COVID-19 Measures on Human Rights in Malaysia
A soldier wearing personal protective equipment disinfects an area under enhanced lockdown in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Jun 29, 2021. Reuters/Lim Huey Teng


Lone de Chene


Global Human Rights Defence.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic has come to an end, most people would prefer not to look back at these scary and lonely times. However, the impact that COVID-19 measures had on Human Rights are still being discovered. Suhakam, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, has released their annual report and the Human Rights Violations they discovered are shocking. 

In 2020 the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented in Malaysia to stop COVID-19 from spreading. To enforce public health measures, criminal law was used, Suhakam is now saying this is concerning. “Using criminal law to enforce public health measures was generally counterproductive. This was because overzealous enforcement of criminal laws forced individuals already fearing arrests and stigma, such as undocumented migrants, to hide from seeking health testing and treatment,” said Suhakam in its report.

But that is not all, the report also addresses the arrest and detention of MCO offenders and migrants. According to Suhakam, the legitimacy of these arrests is questionable. The excessive compound issued to vulnerable MCO offenders can be seen as unequal.

Lastly, the report focused on the impact COVID-19 had on the freedom of speech. Because of misinformation and disinformation, stigmas against certain individuals and groups increased. Leading to more discrimination. he Quick Response Team, established under the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), has been monitoring and verifying viral news related to Covid-19, but Suhakam emphasises that this should not interfere with the right to freedom of speech. 

Reading the report, it seems like there is a lot to unpack. Luckily, Suhakam gives the Malaysian goverment advise on how to handle the balance between Human Rights and public health. The government takes the issues addressed very seriously and has scheduled to debate the report in the House. 

Sources and further readings:

CodeBlue. (2023, June, 2). Suhakam Uncovers Slew Of Human Rights Violations From Covid Lockdowns. CodeBlue. https://codeblue.galencentre.org/2023/06/02/suhakam-uncovers-slew-of-human-rights-violations-from-covid-lockdowns/Suhakam. (2023). 2020 SURUHANJAYA HAK ASASI MANUSIA MALAYSIA (SUHAKAM) (No. 2672 – 748X). Dewan Rakyat. Retrieved June 4, 2023, from https://www.parlimen.gov.my/ipms/eps/2023-05-25/ST.140.2023%20-%20ST%20140.2023.pdf