KUALA LUMPUR: UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Saturday urged the Malaysian government to roll back some of the laws that restrict freedom of expression in the country.
Bachelet cited the laws on sedition, peaceful assembly, official secrets or communication, and multimedia that for a long time (have) impeded freedom of expression and public debate in Malaysia, Efe news reported.
"I hope the government will proceed to roll back the laws," said the head of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the end of her two-day trip to Malaysia.
On Friday, she met Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, several ministers, human rights institutions and civil organisations in Kuala Lumpur.
"We discussed many of the human rights issues Malaysia is grappling with, efforts to introduce reforms, achievements, and setbacks along the way. I do believe that the Government is committed to taking the human rights agenda forward," she said, adding "I also understand the complexity and hurdles they face".
She praised the government's commitment to human rights and religious integration in the diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society of Malaysia, a largely Muslim populated country with sizable Hindu and Chinese ethnic groups as well as aborigines.
The UN official said that Malaysia was working on legislative measures to extend the protection of women to achieve gender equality and combat gender discrimination in the country.
"I understand (several) laws are pending, including on sexual harassment in the workplace. I encourage the government to move forward on a comprehensive gender equality bill to tackle discrimination."
Bachelet said that she also spoke with the authorities about the problems of stateless persons in the country, and urged recognition of the status of refugees of thousands of Rohingya refugees, who escaped a brutal military campaign by the Myanmar army over two years ago.
"I was able to visit an alternative learning centre for Rohingya refugees. I do hope that the legal recognition of refugees can be strengthened and the right to education and access to the job market can be ensured for all refugees, Rohingya and others," she said.
The UN representative also demanded that Malaysia maintain the current moratorium on the application of the death penalty.