13th December 2007
Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman Chair,
The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM),
Level 29, Menara Tun Razak,
Jalan Raja Laut,
50350 Kuala Lumpur.
Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri,
Holding an inquiry into the infringement of human rights under Section 12 of The Human Rights Commission Act of Malaysia into the BNís government crackdown on civil society, opposition & democratic activists that has grossly violated fundamental human liberties. To fend off BNís campaign of lies, intimidation and threats of violence to use fear to win the next general elections
We record our approval for SUHAKAMís expression of regret that the Government had ignored its repeated calls to repeal the law requiring permits from the police for public assemblies and processions. We further support your statement that holding peaceful assemblies is a fundamental human right enshrined not only in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also sanctioned both in spirit, form and substance by our Federal Constitution (Article 20).
You are correct that police should be present merely to maintain order during peaceful assemblies and not disrupt and sabotage peaceful assemblies whereby no peaceful assembly should be rejected solely based on imagination or speculation but on hard evidence of violent intent. However we fear that the government is using their wildest imagination of violent demonstrations conducted by so-called ďextremists linked to terroristsĒ to create a state of fear within the country.
We thereby request that SUHAKAM hold an inquiry into the infringement of human rights under Section 12 of the Human Rights Commission Act into the BNís government crackdown on civil society, opposition & democratic activists that has grossly violated fundamental human liberties to fend off BNís campaign of lies, intimidation and threats of violence to use fear to win the next general elections.
We refer to the recent harsh government crackdown by security forces that violate fundamental human liberties on civil society, opposition and democratic activists who were exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly. Clearly the two massive demonstrations held by the Coalition of Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) on 10 November 2007 and Hindrafís rally on 25 November 2007 drawing crowds of 40,000 each has so rattled the government that it is now resorting to draconian measures to stem the cry for freedom, justice and accountability.
After 50 years of Merdeka marked by the governmentís continued suppression of press freedom and repression of the peopleís rights, the people are demanding the restoration of their essential freedoms. We must work out a New Deal for all Malaysians that founded upon four essential human freedoms outlined by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
1. The first is freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world.
2. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way - everywhere in the world.
3. The third is freedom from want - everywhere in the world.
4. The fourth is freedom from fear - anywhere in the world.
We verily believe that these four essential freedoms nourish and encompass the struggle for political equality, equal economic opportunity, socio-economic justice, environmental protection and enhancing human dignity inherent in the common citizenry of the bangsa Malaysia.
Instead of enjoying these four essential freedoms, there are clear abuses of police powers, excessive use of force and public display of police contempt for human rights which has resulted in 100 arrests, including amongst them:-
1. 10 PAS supporters charged together with PAS Vice-President Mohamad Sabu with obstructing a police officer from discharging his duty on 12 December 2007.
2. 29 people arrested on 11 December 2007 for trying to submit a memorandum by Bersih to oppose the constitutional amendment to Article 125 to extend the retirement age of the Election Commission Chair by one year from 65 years to 66 years, including 9 who were arrested within the supposedly inviolable grounds of the Parliament building.
3. DAP E-General Election Campaign Director Jeff Ooi was harassed and hauled up for interrogation and investigation by the police over baseless charges of criminal defamation relating to his live commentaries criticizing the government and police conduct over Al-Jazeera English news network as news broke on the November 10th BERSIH rally.
4. A total of 23 persons were arrested on various offences on 9 December 2007 ranging from illegal assembly for 5 lawyers and 3 activists marching to commemorate International Human Rights Day, whilst Pas Vice-President Mohamad Sabu, Parti Keadilan Rakyat information chief Tian Chua and 12 others were arrested for illegal assembly in the Bersih rally. Bar Council Human Rights Committee chairman Edmund Bon was arrested for obstructing government officers from carrying out their duty when he protested against their unlawful removal of Human Rights Day banners from the Bar Council headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. The manner of their arrests were also harsh and brutal when Edmond Bon was manhandled and Mohamad Sabu was forcefully removed from his car whilst attending his daughterís wedding and police smashed his carís windscreen causing three of his elderly relatives to collapse in fear.
5. Two men who were shot by police during a Bersih rally in Batu Burok on September 8 2007 were charged with attempting to cause grievous hurt to a policeman and illegal assembly on 9 December 2007. Questions are raised why the policemen who shot them were not charged for attempted murder or causing grievous hurt to the two men.
6. Charges of attempted murder and illegal assembly against 31 persons in Batu Caves with a manhunt carried out for at least another 30 on the same counts for being involved in the massive Hindraf rally on 25th November 2007.
7. Sedition charges filed against Hindraf leaders, especially P. Uthayakumar, who was arrested again on 11 December 2007 after posting bail of RM 50,000 for a second sedition case. He was released on 12 December 2007, 24 hours later without being charged after being spending 24 hours in the police-lock-up in what is seen as an abuse of police powers to unnecessary detain him.
8. Demands by UMNO senior leaders led by UMNO Vice- President Datuk Mohd Ali Rustam to revoke the citizenship of Hindraf lawyers and leaders, threats by former Melaka Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Tamby Chik to hold a counter-demonstration of parang-wielding Malays and wielding of the keris to threaten non-Malays by UMNO Youth President Datuk Hishamuddin Tun Hussein Onn are glossed over and ignored.
9. Threatening to invoke the use of ISA and turning Malaysia into police state by mobilizing the entire police force and giving them full authority to act in a high-handed and arbitrary manner against peaceful citizens instead of focusing attention on catching criminals and reduce the deteriorating crime rate.
10. Attorney Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patailís personal intervention in minor cases of illegal assembly and obstructing government officers from performing their duties is a clear sign of influencing court decisions in the governmentís favour. Why has the AG refused to personally lead the prosecution in high profile cases such as the corruption trial of former Perwaja General Manager Tan Sri Eric Chia or the sensational Altatunya murder trial by a close aide of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak? Bail is imposed to secure the presence of an accused in court not to be misused as a tool to impose punishment before conviction on the accused by refusing him bail so that he can be imprisoned in the lock-up. By asking the court to refuse bail for instance on lawyer Edmond Bon who faces a charge that carries a sentence of only three months in jail with a fine of not more than RM 1,000, or both, Tan Sri Gani Patail no longer acts in the public interest but as an agent of BN to conduct its campaign of political victimisation to intimidate and harass those who oppose BN.
The time has come for such double-standards, selective prosecutions and abuses in the administration of justice to stop. SUHAKAM must intervene to protect the human rights of ordinary citizenry to ensure that the law is enforced and applied judiciously, fairly and equally. Public interest requires that the government stops the harsh, arbitrary and discriminatory manner against peaceful demonstrators whilst providing full immunity for supporters of BN making direct threats of violence.
Freedom of religion under threat when places of worship for non-Muslims are banned and no action is taken against UMNO MPs demanding the removal of the crucifix from mission schools
Another national issue of importance is the constitutional right of freedom of religion under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution continues to be eroded with religious fatwa was such as the latest directive by the Sabah Mufti S.S. Datuk Haji Ahmad Alawai Haji Adnan to the Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman on 7 July 2006. (Copy of letter attached)
The Sabah Mufti informed the Sabah Chief Minister that a fatwa was issued following a meeting on 27-8 June 2006 that the building of any statues or replicas of living beings or animals is ďharamĒ under Islam. The Sabah Mufti then insisted that the building of the Goddess of Sea statue in Kudat must be stopped.
Subsequently, the Thean Hou Foundation was forbidden from erecting the Goddess of the Sea statue and was ordered to halt all work although they had already brought in the statue and work had progressed halfway. Interference by religious authorities on matters of administration is disturbing and not limited to Sabah.
Two BN MPs by Syed Hood Syed Edros (BN-Parit Sulong) and Datuk Mohamad Aziz (BN-Sri Gading) had even demanded the removal and destruction of the crucifix and Christian images from mission schools (see transcript of Hansard below). However no action was taken against them despite making such insensitive, unsubstantiated and baseless comments.
Failure to take action against such baseless allegations of mission schools under the control of the Vatican and the need to purge Christian influence from all schools would only show that comments against Islam would be punished but not against non-Islamic religions. Clearly freedom of religion is under threat when places of worship for non-Muslims are banned and no action is taken against UMNO MPs demanding the removal of the crucifix from mission schools.
Such restrictions of building of religious places of worship for non-Muslims which have been approved earlier by the local authority and do not receive a single cent from the state is unacceptable and against the secular basis of our Malaysian constitution. SUHAKAM needs to be more pro-active to protect and defend freedom of religion and conscience in Malaysia.
(LIM GUAN ENG)
* Lim Guan
Secretary-General of DAP