I fully welcome and support the announcement by Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong that the Government is looking to enact, amend and repeal 113 laws, that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have long been advocating for. The announcement is good news and shows that the Government, nine months after sweeping power in the 14th General Election is still very much committed towards initiating reforms.

It is important that the Government use this opportunity to take a comprehensive approach towards changing the laws to ensure our institutions are no longer open to corrupt practices and abuse of powers.

For six decades, many of our key institutions have been deteriorating and some are now left in a state where they are unable to carry out their most basic functions and in some cases present a barrier towards Malaysia’s progress. This is a threat to the future of our nation and must be addressed immediately.

We must complement law reform by building strong institutions with clear principles on governance, people’s participation and human rights. This is the very essence of the reform agenda as promised by Pakatan Harapan.

Law reforms and resilient institutions that promote accountability, transparency and respect for human rights are necessary. Amending detention laws must be complemented with reform in the police force so as to deal with detainees fairly and justly. The 2005 Royal Commission to Enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police made strong recommendations to establish an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) as well as to “institute reforms in police doctrine, function, organisation, management system, legislations pertaining to areas that fall within police responsibilities and work processes.” They also sought to improve the working and living conditions of police personnel.

Prison reform is long overdue and reforms must have better approaches toward retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation for prisoners. This will set higher standards in the treatment of prisoners as there have been too many recorded instances of abuses within our prisons and police lockups. Many prisoners end up trapped in a life of crime and are unable to break away from it upon their release back into society.

Our legislative reform must also focus on public awareness through education and institutionalising mechanisms that allow for check and balance on the implementation and to include public and CSOs’ engagement with the Government.

A clear roadmap with clear a timeframe on the implementation of these laws and the strengthening of institutions is needed.

Maria Chin Abdullah

25 January 2019