Call for formation of a cross-party Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights on Tuesday whose first task is to send a fact-finding team to probe allegations of “rioting” by ISA detainees in Kamunting Detention Centre – which is a most meaningful way to mark 2004 World Human Rights Day
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Saturday): It does not speak well for its commitment to human rights that the 2004 World Human Rights Day yesterday was practically ignored by the government and all the Cabinet Ministers as if it was a non-event.
Equally serious, a dark cloud hangs over the 2004 World Human Rights Day in Malaysia – with serious allegations that Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees at the Kamunting Detention Centre had been beaten up on Wednesday during a spot check by the prison authority.
The two Deputy Internal Security Ministers Nor Omar and Chia Kwang Chye have alleged that 12 ISA detainees rioted to prevent prisoner officials from carrying out checks in their block, and that weapons subsequently found in the detainees’ block were “24 home-made knives, 19 metal rods, 11 badminton rackets sharpened into weapons, 10 scissors and three foldable knives”.
These allegations of “weapons” found in the detention centre immediately reminded me of two episodes, which are powerful reasons why official versions and claims suffer credibility problem and must be subject to the closest scrutiny:
With such a background, I cannot but take the claims of the two Deputy Internal Security Ministers about weapons found in the Kamunting Detention Centre with a huge pinch of salt!
I am calling for the formation of a cross-party Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights on Tuesday, whose first task is to send a fact-finding team to probe allegations of “rioting” by ISA detainees in Kamunting Detention Centre – which is a most meaningful way to mark 2004 World Human Rights Day.
I will speak to the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz and the Chairman of the Barisan Nasional Back Benchers’ Club, Datuk Shahrir Samad, on Monday informing them of the meeting, as I hope that every political party represented in Parliament, whether Barisan Nasional or Opposition, will have at least one representative on the Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights in view of the centrality and paramountcy of human rights in a modern democracy.
All MPs, regardless of political party, whether Barisan Nasional or Opposition, are welcome to attend the inaugural meeting for the establishment of the Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights to be held at Parliament Committee Room 2 on Tuesday, 14th December 2004 at 12.30 p.m.
Ideally, there should be a Parliamentary Select Committee on Human Rights, but such a Parliamentary Select Committee can only be formed by way of a motion in Parliament, which means agreement of the government – which means the Prime Minister and the Cabinet - with the 92 per cent command of the parliamentary seats by the Barisan Nasional. So far, the government has only agreed to set up two Select Committees – one on the Criminal Procedure Code and Penal Code and the other on national unity and the national service – but had not agreed to the establishment of any Parliamentary Select Committee on other specific subjects or on particular Ministries.
As the Dewan Rakyat is adjourning on Tuesday before the next Cabinet meeting, the only option available is the formation of unofficial parliamentary groupings such as the establishment of the Parliamentary Caucus on Democracy in Myanmar in May this year and the Parliamentary Caucus on the Situation in Southern Thailand earlier this month, which allows MPs from across the political divide to come together on a common issue of concern.
When the two-month long budget meeting of the Dewan Rakyat, which started on Sept. 1, adjourns on Tuesday, it will also mark the end of the first parliamentary session of the 11th Parliament elected on March 21, 2004. As time is of the essence, this media statement will serve as a notice to all MPs to invite them to the inaugural meeting of the Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights on Tuesday.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights can come either from the ruling coalition or the Opposition, as what is most important is the establishment of a Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights and the appointment of a Chairman and committee members to send out a clear and unequivocal signal to Malaysians and the world about the serious commitment of Malaysian MPs to human rights promotion and protection.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman