Call on Hamid Albar to clarify whether he had hijacked the second Suhakam annual report and the cause why Suhakam had contravened its parent Act and  did not comply with the statutory requirement to present its 2001 Report to  the  last meeting of Parliament

- Perak DAP State anniversary dinner 

by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh,  Saturday)Yesterday, I had pointed out that Suhakam had infringed the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia  (HRCM) Act 1999 in failing to submit its second annual report to the last Parliamentary meeting, where  the Dewan Rakyat met from 11th  March  to 9th  April while the Dewan Negara met from 8th to 23rd  April, 2002.  

Section 21(1) of the HRCM Act provides that “The Commission shall not later than the first meeting of Parliament of the following year, submit an annual report to Parliament of all its activities during the year to which the report relates”.  

Malaysians can still remember the fanfare and the publicity blitz on 19th April last year when the Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Musa Hitam, accompanied by Suhakam Deputy Chairman Tan Sri Harun Hashim and Commissioners Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin, Professor Mohd Hamdan Adnan, Professor Chiam Heng Keng, Datuk Lee Lam Thye and Zainah Anwar went to Parliament to  hand over the first Suhakam annual report (for 2000) to the Parliament Speaker, Tun Mohamed Zahir before the 63-page  Suhakam report was made public to the media at a press conference at the Parliament lobby conducted by Musa.

I now understand that the second Suhakam annual report for last year was ready to be submitted  to the last meeting of  Parliament as stipulated by the Suhakam Act, but Suhakam was not allowed to present its report for last year directly to Parliament and  had to submit it to the Foreign Ministry instead.

I call on the Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar to clarify whether his Ministry  had hijacked the second Suhakam annual report and was the cause why Suhakam had contravened its parent Act and  did not comply with the statutory requirement to present its 2001 Report to  the  last meeting of Parliament.

If true, Hamid and the Foreign Ministry had committed a grave, unwarranted and illegal interference with the powers and functions of Suhakam to “protect and promote” human rights in Malaysia, as the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 does not confer any powers on the Foreign Minister or Foreign Ministry to require Suhakam to first  submit its annual report to the Foreign Ministry for vetting or approval before presentation in Parliament.

This will be a most ominous sign for the healthy development of Suhakam into a robust, dynamic and effective institution to protect and promote human rights, and  nobody would have confidence in its  credibility, legitimacy and authority to protect and promote human rights when it has capitulated  its statutory power to submit, without fear or favour,  without let or hindrance  from the government or bureaucracy, its annual report to Parliament!

Hamid, Musa and the new Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman should give proper and satisfactory explanation on this issue, as to whether  and why the Suhakam’s statutory powers and functions to present its annual report to Parliament not later than the first meeting of the following year had been unlawfully hijacked by the Foreign Ministry – and whether this was related in any manner with the impending appointments for  the second batch of  Suhakam commissioners where the most industrious, conscientious and committed commissioners like Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin and Mehrun Siraj were axed.

Abu Talib had shown a face which is  most unbecoming, unworthy and unsuitable for the Chairman of Suhakam, whose most important task is to demand accountability and transparency from the government.

When meeting the press after chairing the first meeting of Suhakam yesterday, and asked about criticism of his appointment by non-government organizations and opposition parties, Abu Talib said they were entitled to their views, saying: “I don’t want to comment on it”.

This was his typical  attitude  when he was Attorney-General for 13 years from 1980 to 1993, which is  unacceptable for any Attorney-General  in an era of heightened public expectations for greater accountability and good governance.

It  is an attitude which is completely deplorable for Suhakam to adopt as it will allow  the government to emulate by responding to Suhakam statements and reports about human rights violations with “No comment” – which will defeat the whole purpose of setting up Suhakam to protect and promote human rights.

If  Abu Talib is to be a good and effective Suhakam Chairman, he must not bring to his Suhakam duties all the bad  habits he acquired as Attorney-General – such as  refusing to account for his actions and decisions.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman