DAP calls for the filling of the seven  Suhakam vacancies with nominees from the NGO human rights community to resolve the Suhakam crisis of confidence

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Friday): The government disregard of internationally-recognised principles concerning the status, powers and functioning of national human rights commissions embodied in the Paris Principles endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 has plunged the two-year-old Suhakam into a crisis of confidence.  

One of the fundamental features of the Paris Principles calls for an independent appointments procedure which is transparent and consultative with civil society groups in the country to maximize the likelihood of committed and active appointees to the commission. 

The axing of two commissioners, Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin and Mehrun Siraj, are most scandalous when it is an open secret that they have been in the forefront in discharging the most important mandate of Suhakam  - the protection of human rights. 

While Suhakam’s  human rights education and promotion work is very important,  they will be quite hollow if Suhakam cannot make a significant impact in its ability to address human rights protection activities by investigating human rights violations and seek recourse or redress for victims, such as the Kesas Highway police brutality, the Kampong Medan racial attacks, the ISA detention of the six reformasi activists and those suspected of involvement with Kumpulan Militant Malaysia (KMM) and the government blanket ban on ceramahs. 

Anuar and Mehrun had been the two most outstanding and distinguished Suhakam Commissioners in the past two years focussing on its remit on human rights protection - although there were  important failings in this area. 

The axing of Anuar and Mehrun is a gross violation of the  Paris Principles precipitating a crisis of confidence in Suhakam by compromising the independence, credibility, integrity and authority of Suhakam. 

The government has not been able to give convincing or credible  reasons as to  why Anuar and Mehrun have  been dropped from Suhakam, when they should be role models for other Suhakam Commissioners in their commitment to uphold human rights! 

Last April, Anuar  was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Commission to its international working group on “Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance” as the sole representative from the Asian region.  This was regarded as a  great honour and recognition to Suhakam and Malaysia at the time.  With Anuar’s ignominous axing from Suhakam, is this another  example of “a prophet not without honour, save in his own country”? 

The appointment of the five new Commissioners, four former  civil servants and one current civil servant, to replace among others, a former Chief Justice, a former Court of Appeal judge and a  legal academician,  is a matter of grave concern  as the government is trying to  foster  a subservient  government mentality in Suhakam with such appointments.  It should be noted that two of the Commissioners dropped, namely Anuar and Datuk Mahadev Shankar  were on the three-man Royal Commission of Inquiry which, assisted by former Attorney-General and the new Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, identified the culprit responsible for  Anwar Ibrahim’s “black eye”. 

As the NGO human rights community and Malaysians concerned about human rights are most alarmed at the victimisation of Anuar and Mehrun for their conscientious and outstanding contributions as Suhakam commissioners to protect and promote human rights, DAP calls on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to reappoint them as Commissioners as there are still seven vacancies in the present 13-member Suhakam, which is allowed to have 20 Commissioners.  

I can agree with the first Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Musa Hitam that Suhakam has chalked up considerable progress in promoting human rights in Malaysia. But the more important question for Suhakam is whether it had contributed towards the protection of human rights in its first two-year term - and the answer is not very positive at all!

The Prime Minister should  fill the  seven  Suhakam vacancies  with nominees from the NGO human rights community to resolve the present Suhakam crisis of confidence - including the re-appointment of Anuar and Mehrun. - so that Suhakam can start on its second two-year term with a more balanced and acceptable composition as not to forfeit national and international confidence.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman