Suhakam should invoke its powers under the Suhakam Act 1999 to protect Suaram

The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) should invoke its functions and powers under the Suhakam Act 1999 to protect Suaram from continued government harassment and infringement of human rights in Malaysia.

Two days ago, Suaram said that Suhakam should intervene in the government’s continued harassment of the NGO’s parent company, Suara Inisiatif Sdn. Bhd as they had been continually persecuted by the government and its agencies since July 2012.

Suaram asked, among other things, that Suhakam take a stand on the Minister of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism, Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s overreaching powers in interrupting and influencing investigations by the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) and to acknowledge the normalcy of foreign funding to organisations in Malaysia.

“Suaram is gravely concerned on the overreaching powers displayed the Minister of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism, Ismail Sabri Yaakob in interfering and influencing the on-going CCM investigation on Suaram,” it said.

Global rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) has rightly pointed out about suspicions over the timing of Putrajaya’s sudden interest in Suaram’s operations, noting that authorities began probing the NGO soon after it revealed that a close associate of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had sold Malaysian naval secrets to France.

AI said in a statement yesterday: “Amnesty is concerned that the recent government actions against SUARAM appear to be linked to the organisation’s legitimate work, in particular a corruption case which it has brought before the French courts.

“The government began these actions against SUARAM four weeks after the organisation disclosed new information from documents made available by the French public prosecutor’s office, which implicate Malaysian officials in the corruption allegations.”

The human rights NGO has been actively pursuing the Scorpene scandal in the French courts, in its campaign to expose government corruption in the multibillion purchase of the submarines in 2009 and possibly reopen the murder case of Mongolian model Altantuyaa Shaariibuu, which has been linked to the deal.

Amnesty said the harassment “appears to be a concerted, multi-departmental government campaign against SUARAM, one of Malaysia’s leading human rights groups”.

“The Malaysian government should respect SUARAM’s right as a human rights organisation to seek and receive funding, rather than abuse its power to intimidate human rights defenders.”

Suhakam should act under Section 4(1) (4) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999 which vested it with functions “to inquire into complaints regarding infringements of human rights” and Section 4(2)(3) empowering it “to study and verify any infringement of human rights”.

I also call on the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to call off the UMNO/Barisan Nasional war on the civil society and end all harassment and persecution not only on Suaram but other independent-minded human rights NGOs and news portals, like Bersih and Malaysiakini as this is totally inimical to word and spirit of his “Political Transformation” and pledge to make Malaysia’s the “world’s best democracy”, but also totally alien to the “new politics” recently advocated by Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah which envisaged a positive partnership of government with business and civil society to create a new governance framework.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timur