The use of repressive laws to silence dissent intensified. The government decriminalized consensual sexual relations between men but moved to block same-sex marriage. Executions resumed.
Freedom of expression and assembly
Judicial harassment of independent media workers and government critics continued. In April, Terry Xu and Daniel de Costa, respectively editor and writer with the media outlet The Online Citizen, were sentenced to three weeks’ imprisonment. They were convicted in 2021 of defaming cabinet members. Daniel de Costa was also sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for contravening the Computer Crimes Act.
In January, human rights defender Jolovan Wham was found guilty of holding an illegal public assembly in relation to a 2018 protest against an earlier trial of Terry Xu and Daniel de Costa. He served 15 days in jail after losing his appeal and refusing to pay a fine.
In June, police interrogated Kirsten Han and Rocky Howe under the Public Order Act after they participated in a peaceful protest against the death penalty.1 In October, police informed Kirsten Han that she had been found in contempt of court, apparently for a Facebook post critical of the authorities’ harassment of lawyers representing death row inmates. She received a conditional warning to refrain from “criminal conduct” for 12 months. Her legal challenge against the case was still pending at year’s end.
In November, a police investigation was launched against a woman after she held a protest outside the Chinese embassy in solidarity with victims of human rights violations there.
LGBTI people’s rights
In November, parliament voted to repeal Section 377a of the Penal Code which criminalized consensual sex between men. However, it also amended the Constitution to effectively block same-sex marriage.
In April, the government lifted most Covid-19 restrictions except for migrant workers, who continued to face restrictions on movement beyond their crowded dormitories, workplaces and designated recreation centres.
Executions, halted since November 2019, resumed. There was public outcry after Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, a Malaysian national assessed with an intellectual disability, was executed in April for drug-related offences.2
The courts imposed punitive costs orders for late-stage appeals against death sentences and lawyers were investigated for making public statements about their clients. M Ravi, a prominent human rights lawyer known for his defence of death row inmates, faced multiple disciplinary inquiries, contempt of court proceedings and criminal defamation investigations in relation to his work.
Failure to tackle climate crisis
The government submitted a new NDC in November which included a revised and increased target to reduce its absolute emissions to 60 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2030. However, this fell significantly short of the figure needed to keep the rise in global temperatures to 1.5˚C.