02 März 2021

COVID-19: Malaysia’s Fragile Constitutional Democracy

The COVID-19 pandemic occasioned a de facto worldwide state of exception. In Malaysia, the beginning of the pandemic would coincide with political turmoil. In 2018, a democratic reformist government surprisingly rose to power after unexpectedly winning the general election. The victory ended six decades of ethnocratic and authoritarian rule under the United Malay National Organization (“UMNO”), a Malay nationalist party committed to a political doctrine of ethnic “Malay Dominance.” However, in March 2020, just as the WHO declared a global pandemic, a series of political machinations brought down the reformist government. Continue reading >>
16 Mai 2020

Covid- 19: Malaysia and the Return of Rule by Law

Two simultaneous narratives are unfolding as Malaysia responds to Covid-19. The first is the specific character of the ongoing legal response. The second is salient backdrop to any evaluation of this legal response that Malaysia is in political turmoil. Continue reading >>
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14 April 2020

Abstract panic: On fake news, fear and freedom in Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, which is the world’s most dynamic laboratory of fake news legislation, the corona crisis has put previously created laws to practice and sparked additional legislative activity. The professed goal is to prevent public panic. Recent enforcement actions, however, demonstrate the complete irrelevance of any panic indicators. A falsehood’s panic potential is simply assumed. In short, an abstract panic threat is fought with very concrete measures: Arrests and criminal prosecutions. Cases from across Southeast Asia prove the trend, whereas two decisions in Singapore deserve particular attention. Continue reading >>
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07 Dezember 2019

Truth vs. Free Speech

Southeast Asian governments have been stepping up their efforts to actively manage the truth by combatting false information. Among the main tools are correction orders and state-run “fake news centers” that monitor and “rectify” alleged falsehoods online. In addition, government discourse employs increasingly belligerent language to denounce the perceived threats. The Southeast Asian “war on fake news” thus makes the region the world’s most vibrant laboratory of anti-falsehood legislation. The protection of the truth is becoming an increasingly accepted ground for restricting free speech. Continue reading >>
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12 Mai 2019

Hello – and Goodbye! How Royal Powerplay aborted Malaysia’s ICC Membership

On 5 April 2019, the United States revoked the visa of the ICC chief prosecutor because of her attempts to investigate allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, including any that may have been committed by American forces. On the same day, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced that his country was withdrawing its signature from the Rome Statute, just one month after having signed it. Did the Malaysian drama just coincide with Washington’s move? The most likely answer is yes. Rather, it reflects long-existing tensions between Malaysia’s federal government and the country’s royalty. Continue reading >>
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16 Dezember 2018

A Look behind the Fake News Laws of Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, attempts to regulate the fake news phenomenon can be broadly categorized, on the one hand, in cases where fake news laws are conceived at least also as the government’s weapon to silence critics and dissenters, and on the other hand, cases where the discourse is lead more open-ended. Under the first category, Malaysia springs to mind, Cambodia and Vietnam possibly too. Thailand is a somewhat mixed case. Much more open-ended are the fake news discourses in Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore. Continue reading >>
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27 November 2018

Affirmative Action in Malaysia: Constitutional Conflict with the ICERD?

Four days ago, Malaysia finally decided not to ratify the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. This was preceded by massive protests against ratification. Why, one might ask? Is it really an unreasonable thing to hope for racial equality? An answer could lie in what Thomas Sowell once stated: “When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination.” Continue reading >>
24 April 2018

Gerrymandering and Judicial Review in Malaysia

On 28 March, the Malaysian Parliament passed new electoral maps. The re-delineated boundaries create an imbalance in constituencies, prompting allegations of mal-apportionment and gerrymandering. They remain largely unchallenged, not only through ouster clauses in particularized elections legislation, but also through the unwillingness of the judiciary to recognize the importance of the constitutional question relating to fair and equitable electoral management. Continue reading >>
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