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Suhakam should commission a public inquiry into the state of  human rights in the   22 years of Mahathir rule

Media Statement

by Lim Kit Siang  

, Friday): The speech by former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at the opening of the Suhakam annual conference on human rights is a great disappointment although it is big news, nationally and internationally  – provoking  a walkout by US,  British  and other  diplomats because of his attacks on the US-led invasion of Iraq.

But on the long dark night of democracy and human rights during his 22-year rule as the  longest-serving Prime Minister in Malaysia, he has little precious to say.

Mahathir  had done more than the first three Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn, to subvert democracy, undermine the rule of law, violate human rights and emasculate the autonomy and credibility of independent institutions and organs of state.

His  premiership for 22 years and 3 months was almost as long as the total tenures of the first three Prime Ministers which totalled just short of  24 years.

Mahathir completely undermined the fundamental doctrine of the separation of powers, leaving a Parliament never more of a rubber-stamp and a Judiciary never more cowed and subservient in the nation’s history when he stepped down from office.

In January 2000, I had consulted two former Lord Presidents, the late Tun Suffian and Tun Salleh Abas on the advisability of challenging in the courts the constitutionality of the meetings of the 10th Parliament and the validity of its enactments and decisions.

This was because the first meeting of the  10th Parliament elected on November 29, 1999 was summoned by a royal proclamation dated  9th December 1999 which was defective and unconstitutional.  Under Article 40 of the Constitution,  the Yang di Pertuan Agong shall act in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet, but the post-1999 general election Cabinet was not formed and did not hold its first meeting until December 15, 1999.

Both the former Lord Presidents agreed that the convening of the 10th Parliament was unconstitutional, rendering all its subsequent acts unlawful, but both advised against instituting any court challenge as it would a lost cause  – a sad commentary on the state of the system of justice in  Mahathir’s Malaysia.

Instead of inviting Mahathir to give the keynote address at its annual human rights conference, leading to the boycott of the conference by NGOs, Suhakam would be acting more in keeping with its statutory charter to promote and protect human rights  if it commissions a public inquiry into the state of human rights in Malaysia in the 22 years of Mahathir rule.

Suhakam should invite Mahathir as the key witness for such a public inquiry, whose terms of reference should cover all aspects of human rights, particularly relating to the arsenal of repressive and draconian laws which violate the human rights of Malaysians – the Internal Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Universities and Universities Colleges Act, the Police Act, etc. and the dark episodes of the Mahathir era – the crises of the judiciary, the Operation Lallang mass arrests, the persecution of Anwar Ibrahim,  the stifling of a free press and freedom of information resulting in rampant corruption and greed, the crisis of higher education, electoral  abuses and the development blackmail in withholding development funds from opposition areas.

Suhakam should give serious consideration to this proposal  as an important initiative to chart out an action plan for the restoration, promotion and protection of human rights in Malaysia.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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