Suhakam should reconsider and conduct a public  inquiry into human rights abuses in the Petaling Jaya Selatan clashes last month

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

({Penang, Saturday): The Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) should reconsider and conduct a public inquiry into human rights abuses in the Petaling Jaya Selatan clashes last month, the worst ethnic clashes in the country in the past 32 years.

A public inquiry by Suhakam would give the police the opportunity to prove that it had not shown any favouritism to any community in last month’s clashes when upholding law and order as well as dispel any notion that Suhakam was “selective” in holding inquiries about human rights abuses.

The Petaling Jaya clashes, where five  Indians and an Indonesian were killed,  some 315 people arrested and 50 people injured during four days of violence that broke out March 8 have  undoubtedly seen more serious cases of human rights violation than the police abuses during the peaceful gathering at  Kesas Highway, Jalan Kebun, Klang on November 5 last year.

Nobody expects Suhakam to deal with the socio-economic problems highlighted by the Petaling Jaya Selatan clashes.

Although the Petaling Jaya Selatan clashes were sparked off by deep-seated socio-economic problems, which must be addressed urgently if other urban poverty time-bombs are not to explode with more  Taman Medan clashes in the country, Suhakam must deal with the human rights abuses during the clashes in keeping with its statutory responsibility to protect and promote human rights.

This will also help to sensitise the various authorities to the need to be ever-conscious of the  human rights dimension in all aspects of the discharge of their duties.

This is why Suhakam should reverse its decision not to hold a public inquiry into the human rights abuses in the Petaling Jaya Selatan clashes.
It is most unfortunate that after four weeks of meeting, Parliament has failed to have a focussed debate on the socio-economic, law-and-order  and human rights dimensions of the Petaling Jaya Selatan clashes.

This is a grave parliamentary neglect as there are 243 potential Taman Medan  'time-bombs' in the Klang Valley alone  with squatter colonies dotting  Selangor and Kuala Lumpur - home to debilitating housing, health, social and crime problems which, if ignored and left unattended by the authorities, could easily boil over. Last year, 772 cases of robbery, theft and assault were reported in these shanty towns.

Parliament must schedule a special though belated debate on the Taman Medan clashes and the other potential Taman Medan time-bombs in the country or it runs the risk of degenerating into a “White Elephant” Parliament.

Suhakam should  also act promptly to  investigate the complaint with regard to the unlawful detention and mistreatment  of four inmates of the Simpang Renggam Correction Centre which had been lodged with the commission yesterday by their representative M.Siva and lawyer  A. Sivanesan.

The two sets of brothers -- Ananthan and Sugumaran Maniraju, and Gunalan and Arumugam Subramaniam -- were detained under the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance in February 1999 after they were acquitted of a murder charge.

In the letter to Suhakam, families of the four detainees alleged many others at the centre have also been kept there although their detention period had ended.

The letter said the four and some 100 other detainees have gone on a hunger-strike since April 1 in protest, with one said to have swallowed broken glass from a light bulb to draw attention to their case.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman