Malaysia: Government must halt harassment of land rights defenders

Malaysia: Government must halt harassment of land rights defenders - Civic Space

Photo credit: Parti Sosialis Malaysia

ARTICLE 19 and CIVICUS are concerned by the arrests of three land rights defenders and a farmer for trying to block a forced eviction by the Perak state government on 24 October.  Our organisations are also disturbed by the way the authorities conducted the eviction and the use of force against a human rights defender.

The farmers in the Kanthan area in the state of Perak have been cultivating vegetables, fruits and rearing fish for decades. In 2012, they were promised replacement land by the authorities if they moved out, which the state government has yet to deliver on. The farmers were still in negotiations with the state when on 13 October 2023 they were suddenly given an eviction notice.

On 24 October, dozens of officials from the Perak State Land and Minerals Office (PTG) were mobilised to forcibly evict the farmers with bulldozers and excavators. When the farmers, supported by activists from the Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM), tried to block them from entering the area, the police arrested four of them, including the activists Dr. Jeyakumar Devaraj, Karthiges Manickam, and Kesavan Parvathy as well as farmer Ho Pon Tien. The four were released yesterday around 8 p.m. under police bail.

“The arbitrary arrests of the activists highlight the challenging environment for human rights defenders standing up for land rights and for local communities. Their arrest was purely to intimidate and create a chilling effect for those seeking to halt the forced eviction. The government must drop any investigations into their actions,” said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia Pacific Researcher.

Another PSM activist, Chong Yee Shan, who has been working with the farmers to defend their land rights, was shoved by an officer from the Land and Minerals Office when she tried to stop the eviction. The incident was captured on video. She suffered injuries to her nose and mouth, as well as wounds on her legs and hands and has required medical treatment.

“Our organisations condemn the ill-treatment against human rights defender Chong Yee Shan. Such actions by government officials must not be tolerated. The authorities must investigate the incident promptly and impartially and the perpetrator must be held to account,” said Nalini Elumalai, Senior Malaysia Programme Officer at ARTICLE 19.

Human rights defenders in Malaysia, especially those working on land and environmental rights issues face various challenges for undertaking their work, including judicial harassment from the state as well as non-state actors.


For more information

Nalini Elumalai, Senior Malaysia Programme Officer [email protected]