In its annual survey of worldwide human rights practices, the United States State Department said the case of former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is indicative of human rights violations in Malaysia by demonstrating both a lack of judicial independence as well as abuses by police in the country.
The report said: "For political reasons, Anwar was charged with obstruction of justice in 1998 and convicted in April."
It accused the law enforcement and court officials of misconduct and said:
"Improper conduct by the police and prosecutors, along with many questionable rulings by the judge, denied Anwar a fair opportunity to defend himself".
The report, submitted to the US Congress by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, made clear Washington's misgivings about Malaysian justice, saying that the "impartiality of the judiciary continued to deteriorate during the year."
It noted the jailing of Canadian journalist, Murray Heibert, on a contempt of court charge stemming from a report raising questions about judicial favouritism.
"The Attorney General practiced politically motivated, selective prosecution (and) many observers expressed serious doubts about the independence and impartiality of the judiciary," the report said.
It added that Kuala Lumpur "systematically curtailed freedom of expression" by clamping down on opposition media, infringed on citizens' privacy rights and said the election commission's lack of independence prevented it from properly conducting and monitoring voting.
In response, Rais said the United States Government should stay out of other countriesí internal affairs and stop passing judgment on others.
He told The Sun:
"The rampant human rights violations taking place in the Bronx area (in New York) for example were never told to the world Öso before meddling in other peopleís affairs, they should look into theirs first."
Rais should wake up to the new international reality - that it is the right of the US to monitor human rights violations in Malaysia just as it is the right of Malaysia to expose human rights violations in the US.
He should brief himself of the World Conference on Human Rights 1993
(when he was out of government) where 171 United Nations member states
including Malaysia unanimously adopted the Vienna Declaration and Programme
of Action which, among other things, declared the following tenets:
As a result, the protection and promotion of human rights has become an international commitment of every United Nations member state and this is why Malaysia is setting up the National Commission of Human Rights.
As Malaysia has accepted the principle that the promotion and protection of all human rights is a legitimate concern of the international community, Rais and the government should not be upset about the US State Departmentís annual survey of worldwide human rights practices.
Just as the US State Department has not violated any international law or practices in its annual survey of worldwide human rights practices, the Malaysian government can also issue an annual survey of human rights violations in the United States, focussing in particular on the "rampant human rights violations taking place in Bronx area" - and DAP will give the government full support in this effort to monitor human rights violations in the United States.
However, this is no excuse for the Malaysian government to abscond from our international commitment to protect and promote human rights in the country and we should welcome not only the United States but any other nation or international organisation which are interested in monitoring human rights violations in the country.
Finally, Rais should not be so easily upset by the US report on human rights violations in Malaysia, about no rule of law, lack of independence of judiciary and gross human rights violations in the country, when these are the very same views he had written in his book, "Freedom under Executive Power in Malaysia" a few years ago before he rejoined the Cabinet.
There are two constructive things Rais as Cabinet Minister responsible for law and justice can do in response to the US State Department report on human rights violations in Malaysia - firstly, to issue a White Paper to make a detailed rebuttal of the US report and secondly, for the Malaysian government to present an annual report to Parliament on human rights violations in the US.