The fifth Abdullah Cabinet meeting tomorrow on the occasion of International Human Rights Day (December 10)  should reaffirm respect and commitment to uphold human rights by announcing a roadmap to improve Malaysia’s human rights record

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangTuesday): Tomorrow’s fifth Cabinet meeting of Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi coincides with this year’s International Human Rights Day  on every December 10 to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 55 years ago and which has become the font or template of all international efforts to advance and protect the norm of  human rights. 

DAP calls on the fifth Abdullah Cabinet meeting tomorrow to reaffirm respect and commitment to uphold human rights by taking bold  decisions to institutionalize the UDHR rights and mainstream the promotion and protection of human rights in the national agenda, including the following measures: 

  • Announce the adoption and implementation of a National Human Rights Action Plan by the end of the year;
  • Ratification and accession of three fundamental international human rights instruments, viz. the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) as recommended by Suhakam in its first Annual Report 2000 and a fourth, the Rome Treaty for the establishment of the International Criminal Court.
  • Overhaul  mechanisms and agencies to promote and protect human rights as strengthening Suhakam to grant it meaningful and effective powers to monitor and end human rights violations, whether in the  police,  prisons or  the justice system,  or affecting  fundamental  rights of freedom of  speech, assembly,  association  and the right to information and the establishment of an all-party Parliamentary Human Rights Committee to hold public hearings  to monitor human rights violations as well as Suhakam performance.

In his first 40 days as the new Prime Minister, Abdullah has not given clear signals that he will end the  retreat of  human rights and democracy in Malaysia with an ambitious human rights programme and roadmap for Malaysia.

On the contrary, there have been disturbing developments which seem to portend the further entrenchment of a system founded on denial of human rights, such as the continued refusal to allow former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to be released from prison on bail while awaiting the outcome of his criminal appeals or to allow him to receive proper medical treatment for his critical spinal injury; the continued use of the Internal Security Act detention-without-trial laws and the use of the war on  terrorism to erode human rights by enacting wide-ranging laws not subject to proper judicial review or political accountability; and the lack of  even an air of media freedom for dissenting views in the past 40 days.

On 25th February 2002, Suhakam submitted a National Human Rights Plan of Action to the government to place human rights improvements in the context of public policy, so that the government and civil society can endorse human rights improvements as practical goals, devise programmes to ensure the achievement of those goals and allocate sufficient resources for the implementation of the programmes. 

The targets of the National Human Rights Plan of Action include: 

  • A stronger legal system, improved rule of law and strengthened independence of the judiciary;
  • A better functioning electoral system;
  • Greater awareness and implementation of economic, social and cultural rights, leading to an improved quality of life for the people of Malaysia;
  • Improved linkage between human rights and development;
  • Enhanced programmes for vulnerable groups;
  • Ratification of international standards and more effective incorporation of these standards into domestic law and practice, thereby expanding the range of human rights protection for individuals.

For some two years, Suhakam’s proposal for the National Human Rights Plan of Action had been lost in the maw of bureaucracy.  The Cabinet tomorrow, to commemorate the International Human Rights Day, should retrieve  the Suhakam draft from oblivion and announce the release of a  National Human Rights Plan of Action and its implementation by the end of the year.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman