Human Rights Commissionís first task should be to  investigate into widespread complaints of violations of freedom of speech and the press in Malaysia  - as illustrated by the blackout of adverse or criticial reactions to the establishment of the Commission yesterday


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
 

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The Human Rights Commissionís first task is to investigate into widespread complaints of violations of freedom of speech and the press in Malaysia  - as illustrated by the blackout of adverse or criticial reactions to the establishment of the Commission yesterday.

Yesterday, for instance, I raised the critical question as to  whether the  Human Rights Commission would end up as an alibi institution to legitimise human rights violations in the country as its definition of "human rights" is limited to the "fundamental liberties as enshrined in Part II of the Federal Constitution" together with all its qualifications, rather than the international human rights instruments, whether it be the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or  the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

As a result, the  Human Rights Commission will have to recognise and honour all repressive and draconian laws under the Constitution although they are regarded universally as having violated human rights, whether the Internal Security Act, the Official Secrets Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act or the  Sedition Act.

Aliran president P. Ramakrishan said that  while the list of members of the commission announced by the Foreign Ministry showed an impressive array of names,  many Malaysians would question what these members' credentials are in the field of  human rights.

He added that several non-governmental organisations who have monitored and reported on human rights abuses for years and who have made it  their business to be the watchdog of human rights are also not represented in the commission.

One can agree or disagree  with these  adverse or criticial comments about the establishment of the Human Rights Commission, but when they  are blacked out in the mainstream media,  it highlights a grave human rights violation problem of the lack of freedom of expression and a free press in Malaysia.

Under the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, the Commission is given four-point  functions and powers to promote and protect human rights, namely:
 

The Human Rights Commission should get down to work on widespread complaints of violations of freedom of expression and the press on all these four aspects:  to promote awareness about the lack of freedom of expression and the press in Malaysia; to advise and assist the Government on whether it should have reduced Harakah from a biweekly into a bimonthly, banned independent-minded publications like  Detik or continuing to require annual licensing of newspapers and publications; recommend that the government ratify all international human rights instruments on the freedom of expression and the press; as well as initiate a comprehensive investigation into violations of freedom of expression and the press, bearing in mind the recent report of the United Nations  Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Abid Hussain,  that freedom of opinion is "systematically curtailed" in Malaysia and the domestic press "muzzled".

The Human Rights Commission does not have to wait for anyone to lodge a complaint before it could initiate an inquiry into human right violations, as under Section 12(1) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, the Commission has the powers to inquire on its own motion into human rights violations, with or without a specific complaint by any person.

(4/4/2000)


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman