(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
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”.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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
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.