(Petaling Jaya, Monday): This is to formally release the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance unanimously adopted by over 400 Malaysians at "The Return of the Legal Eagles" at Federal Hotel, Kuala Lumpur last night.
The signatories to the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance include the panellists of "The Return of the Legal Eagles", namely Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy, Karpal Singh, Ramdas Tikamdas, S.D. Sharma, Abdul Razak Ahmad, Sivarasah Rasiah, Lim Guan Eng and Lim Kit Siang.
Leading personalities of the civil society, representatives of political parties and NGO activists also attended the "The Return of the Legal Eagles" last night and endorsed the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance. They include Dr. Syed Husin Ali, Chairman of Parti Rakyat; Dr. Sanusi Othman, Secretary-General, Parti Rakyat; Dr. Mohamad Nasir, Protem Chairman, Socialist Party Malaysia; Irene Fernandez of Tenaganita and Fan Yew Teng, former DAP MP. Professor Jomo, K.S. and A. Ramakrishnan of Aliran have expressed their endorsement of the Declaration although they could not attend the forum because of other prior engagements.
The Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good
"While it is right for the authorities to examine what had happened in Indonesia to find out what Malaysia can learn from our neighbour’s recent upheavals, we should not draw the wrong lessons.
"Firstly, the authorities should not react as if tens of thousands of people would be taking to the streets in protests and uprisings, as Malaysians have become even more mature after four decades of nationhood.
"Secondly, the authorities should take full cognisance of the aspirations of Malaysians for wide-ranging political reforms and greater democratisation and realise that suppressing these aspirations is not only unconducive to creating an united, cohesive and resilient society to face the nation’s worst economic crisis but would undermine the restoration of confidence without which there could be no economic turnaround and recovery.
"Malaysians do not want street protests and marches as happened in Indonesia, but their demands for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance are no less urgent and insistent.
"Malaysians have very limited democratic space whether in freedom of speech, expression, press, assembly and information and the time has come for the expansion of these democratic spaces to give Malaysians a greater say in the decision-making process as to how the people can be united and the nation emerge from the year-long economic crisis in the shortest possible time with the minimum of avoidable hardships, pain and injustice to Malaysians.
"If there is justice, freedom, democracy and good governance, the economic crisis in Malaysia would not be so protracted and intractable, with no light at the end of the tunnel after nearly one whole year of economic turmoils; there would be no corruption, cronyism and nepotism in Malaysia; there would be no water shortage crisis in a country with abundant rainfall; there would be no politically-motivated selective prosecutions; there would be no crisis of confidence in the independence of the judiciary; and finally, there would be no patent injustice meted out to Lim Guan Eng.
"Malaysians want justice, freedom, democracy and good governance. Malaysians want the democratisation of the political process, where there is free and fair general elections for the people to elect Members of Parliament and State Assembly representatives of their choice, together with Parliamentary reforms to make Parliament a meaningful and the highest tribunal in the country; democratisation of the entire government to make it fully responsible, trustworthy and accountable to the people where there is no room for the incompetent, the irresponsible and the corrupt whether among the public service or the political leadership; democratisation of the laws to repeal draconian laws which deny Malaysians the fundamental liberties guaranteed in the Malaysian Constitution, like the Internal Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Police Act; democratisation of local government with the restoration of city, municipal, district and local council elections; and democratisation of the information process, where the mass media, both printed and electronic, are free, fair and responsible and do not degenerate into propaganda tools of ruling parties to spread lies and falsehoods against the Opposition and the NGOs.
"We affirm our commitment to the cause of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance and resolve that this declaration, to be known as the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance, June 22, 1998, send out a clarion call to the government to fully co-operate with the civil society, whether Opposition parties, NGOs or concerned Malaysians, to institute wide-ranging political, economic and financial reforms to save Malaysia."
I will seek an appointment with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to present the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance to the Government, and to ask that the Declaration be tabled for a special study by the Cabinet.
I thank the New Straits Times for reporting on "The Return of the Legal Eagles" in today’s issue, although I must express my strongest objections to the New Straits Times dubbing the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance as "Repeating the sentiments voiced largely by the foreign media".
The New Straits Times reporter has insulted the intelligence and integrity of the distinguished panellists, comprising some of the most senior, outstanding, courageous and upright lawyers in the country, as well the leading personalities in the civil society many of whom had dedicated their lives to the betterment of the country out of a supreme sense of patriotism not easily to be found either in the comfort of the ruling parties or the controlled media, as well as the more than 400 lawyers and model Malaysians concerned about the great issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance in making the insinuation that they are mindless tools and puppets of the foreign media.
Let me tell the NST reporter who wrote the report yesterday that the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance is not the work of any foreign journalist, but represents the conviction of full-blooded Malaysians who really love and care for truth and justice and the future of Malaysia - unlike the reporter who could make such vicious and baseless insinuation.
Many of the demands made in the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance, like calls for greater democratisation and removal of draconian laws like the Internal Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act and the Police Act, had been the calls of political parties, NGOs and Malaysians down through the decades - and have nothing to do whatsoever with the foreign media.
These calls were in the Gagasan Rakyat General Elections Manifesto 1990 and again in the DAP General Elections Manifesto 1995 calling for Full Liberalisation and Greater Democratisation.
The New Straits Times should apologise for mixing reportage and comments. If the New Straits Times want to echo or even anticipate the Prime Minister’s response to the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance (as some reporters are already so brainwashed that they can read the mind of the Prime Minister), and take a partisan stand, then let it open up its columns in the New Straits Times for a full debate on the Declaration and the increasing demands of Malaysians for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
For a start, is the New Straits Times prepared to publish in full the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance as well as my speech at "The Return of the Legal Eagles" last night, state the New Straits Times response to both, and invite a full public debate.
If the New Straits Times is not prepared to do so, then it should apologise for a most unprofessional write-up of "The Return of the Legal Eagles" in today’s NST.