Suhakam should conduct painful reappraisal whether after three years, it has been relegated to  an “alibi” institution to legitimize prevalent human rights violations in Malaysia

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaTuesday): Today is the Third Malaysia Human Rights Day celebrated by Suhakam, for which  it has organized a two-day conference entitled “Human Rights and the Administration of the Law”. 

On its third Malaysia Human Rights Day, which is not even recognised by the Government, the question that must be posed is whether Suhakam had made any appreciable impact and improvement in the protection and promotion of human rights in Malaysia. 

In its fourth year of operation, Suhakam is in danger of being dismissed as a “talk-shop” and “warehouse for reports” which are ignored not only by the Government but also  by Parliament – as  to date, not a single Suhakam report had been debated by Parliament in the past four years. 

On the occasion of the Third Malaysia Human Rights Day, Suhakam should conduct  an agonizing re-appraisal of its role to ascertain  whether it has made any difference in the promotion and protection of human rights since its establishment in April 2000.  Most importantly, whether it has been relegated to an “alibi” institution to legitimize prevalent human rights violations in Malaysia. 

Is the Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman or any Suhakam Commissioner prepared to attend any public forum to defend itself and argue against the contention that it has been relegated to an “alibi” institution to legitimize prevalent human rights violations in the country? 

Malaysians are entitled to ask what is there for Suhakam  to celebrate with regard to the third Malaysia Human Rights Day when more and more human rights violations have become the rule  rather than the exception in the country, as illustrated by the recent spate of human rights breaches, such as:

  • Denial of entry into Sarawak by Malaysian anti-logging activist, the Co-ordinator for the Centre for Orang Asli, Colin Nicholas last night –  three weeks after another human rights activists, Suaram director Cynthia Gabriel, was denied entry into Sarawak. This is an  outrageous denial not only of the duo’s fundamental human rights of movement, but also their citizenship rights to visit their own country.
  • The dirtiest and the most unfair campus elections in the public universities in the nation’s history,  which  adopted lock, stock and barrel all the dirty and worst  election tricks of the Barisan Nasional in general elections, including the curse of money politics and the tactics of falsehoods, fear and intimidation, enabling “pro-establishment” students to wrest control of the student councils in the University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).  
  •  The violation of the fundamental right to association in the  undemocratic delay in the approval for the merger between Parti Keadilan Nasional and Parti Rakyat to become Parti Rakyat Keadilan Nasional and the refusal to register Parti Sosialis Malaysia.  The reason given by the Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin for the delay in processing the merger application  -  that the Registrar of Societies  (ROS) has to carry out detailed research and to avoid making any "mistake in approving the new party" -  is just nonsensical, as the ROS is dealing with two legally registered political parties under Societies Act and not unknown underground personalities!

The signs are not good that the passing of the baton and the takeover of the reins of government by the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in less than two months will herald a sea-change in human rights where Suhakam can play a meaningful role in the discharge of its statutory duty to protect and promote human rights.

Has the Suhakam Commissioners asked for a meeting with Abdullah to seek an assurance that as  the new Prime Minister, he  will usher in a new deal for human rights in Malaysia, with Suhakam playing a more meaningful and significant role in the promotion and protection of human rights compared to its “lame-duck” role in the  past three-and-a-half years?


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman