Several thousands of people had gathered peacefully at the Suhakam headquarters at Menara Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur to show their support for the People’s Memorandum April 14 and although there were heavy police presence, there were no incidents.
There was however not a word in the 12 o’clock radio news about the peaceful and incident-free completion of the event. For the last few days, radio and television had created nation-wide fear and alarm that there could be riots in Kuala Lumpur at the gathering outside Suhakam headquarters, especially with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, alleging that explosives might be used at the protest gathering.
The peaceful and incident-free gathering at Suhakam headquarters in KL this morning should be the first headline on 12 o’clock radio news to allay fear and alarm throughout the country about riots and violence in Kuala Lumpur - but this apparently is not news enough for RTM, without riots, violence and arrests.
Radio and television are showing a most irresponsible face of their news policy, which must be condemned as anti-people and anti-national.
Sdr. Ronnie Liu said that the 22-member ‘Black 14' delegation led by Azizah was received by Suhakam Commissioners Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin, Tan Sri Harun Hashim and Hamdan Adnan, who later accompanied the delegation to meet the crowd outside the building at about 11.40 a.m.
Anuar said that Suhakam would consider the 10-point memorandum, thanked the crowd for their concern and asked them to disperse peacefully, as well as asking the police to allow the crowd to leave peacefully.
I commend the Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Musa Hitam and Suhakam commissioners for a sterling performance in the great test over the handing over of the 10-point People’s Memorandum April 14 on human rights, especially after the Internal Security Act (ISA) crackdown and the detention without trial of seven reformasi activists, the police allegation of a militant conspiracy for the violent overthrow of the elected government involving explosives like bombs and grenade-launchers and Mahathir’s curt remark that it was the police and not Suhakam which were responsible for the security of the country.
I applaud the statement by Musa yesterday where he said:
“Indeed I fully appreciate it is the Police and not SUHAKAM that is in charge of maintaining law and order. However, I would like to assure all that as SUHAKAM has been entrusted with responsibilities clearly spelled out in the Act, it will continue to express its views and opinions whenever it feels fit. It will do so without being pro or against any individual or party.”
As the first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of the Mahathir administration from 1981-1986, Musa should be fully aware of the responsibilities of the police to maintain law and order. However, his position as Suhakam Chairman has also given him further understanding and insight of the need for the police factor in human rights so as to maintain law and order without trampling on the human rights of Malaysians.
While the police continues to be responsible for maintaining law and order, it is the responsibility of Suhakam to ensure that the police carries out this onerous duty with full regard of the need to respect and uphold human rights!
The thousands of people who had gathered peacefully at Suhakam to send a clear message of their deep concern about the erosion of human rights in Malaysia deserve praise.
With the peaceful conclusion of the Black 14 gathering and the handing over of the People’s Memorandum April 14 to Suhakam, I call on the police to hold a round-table conference with all political parties and NGOS to work out a framework whereby the fundamental right to freedom of assembly could be exercised without creating law-and-order problems, so that the fundamental right to peaceful assembly whether of hundreds and even thousands of people is fully respected in Malaysia.
The peaceful conclusion of Black 14 gathering is the strongest proof that there is no basis or cause for the detention of the Reformasi Seven under the detention-without-trial Internal Security Act and the police should immediately and unconditionally release all seven detainees without any delay.