Suhakam should urgently organise human rights courses for all police officers, especially  OCPDs, to ensure that they do not try to become "thought police" and impose bureaucratic or  ridiculous conditions for police permits making a mockery of human rights

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang 

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) should  urgently organise human rights course for all police officers, especially  OCPDs, to ensure that they do not try to become "thought police" and impose  bureaucratic or ridiculous conditions for police permits for assemblies making a mockery of human rights.

The conditions imposed by the police on the  second "100,000 People’s Gathering" on Saturday  to jointly celebrate Christmas, Ponggol, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and the Chinese New Year in Banting, Selangor - prohibiting "political" speeches and cultural performances by lion dance and kompang troupes  - not only make a mockery of democracy and human rights in Malaysia but a laughing stock of the police and the government.

Has the Barisan Nasional government become so unstable and frightened by  the  "people’s power" in the Philippines which have  brought down a second unpopular and unacceptable President that it has  become fearful and paranoid about   "political speeches" from the Barisan Alternative although they  pose no threat to public order whatsoever?

Has the 43-year Malaysian nation-building process and 10 years of Vision 2020 efforts to create a Bangsa Malaysia been such a disastrous failure that the presentation of a lion dance troupe in a predominantly Malay kampong  area in Kuala Langat is regarded as a threat to social harmony?

In actual fact, the invitation and presentation of the traditional Chinese lion dance in a predominantly Malay kampong area should have been regarded as a celebration of a new spirit of Malaysianness to mark a new level of maturity of the multi-racial, multi-religious nation-building process - a greater coming coming-together  of the diverse races, religions and cultures in the country  -which should have been given all the encouragement by the authorities instead of being prohibited.

It is acceptable for the police to impose conditions to ensure smooth flow of traffice, but It is none of its business to try to  double up as "thought police" to censor ideas and views - particularly when there is nothing in modern life which is not finally rooted in some political decision-making process.

The job of the police is to uphold the law and they should only be involved when laws like the Sedition Act are breached in public  speeches and not to impose  a blanket ban on so-called "political speeches".

The damning  report of the international legal and judicial community  on the Malaysian system of justice entitled  "Justice in Jeopardy: Malaysia 2000" jointly prepared by the International Bar Association, the ICJ Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association and the Union Internatidonale Des Avocats which was released worldwide last April made various recommendations to restore national and international confidence in the Malaysian judiciary.

One of these recommendations called for "an international conference on the independence of the judiciary and training sessions on human rights law" for members of the Malaysian judiciary.

It is not only members of the Malaysian judiciary who need human rights education, police officers, in particular OCPDs who are the first police authorities responsible for the issue of police permits for public gatherings, should undergo urgent training sessions to raise their level of awareness and understanding of human rights so that there will be no more  instances of the  police making a mockery of human rights by imposing bureaucratic,  capricious and downright ridiculous conditions inimical to the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.

Suhakam on its part should act under its statutory term of reference "to advise and assist the Government in formulating legislation and administrative directives and procedures and recommend the necessary measures to be taken" to stop imposing bureaucratic, capricious and downright ridiculous conditions for the issue of police permits for public assemblies which make a mockery of human rights.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman