Suhakam should convene a conference of political parties, NGOs and civil society on the human rights lessons for Malaysia  in  the  September 11 aftermath to overcome its crisis of confidence

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Suhakam is facing a grave crisis of confidence within 20 months of its establishment because of the shocking proposal by the Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Musa Hitam that the Malaysian Human Rights Commission put democracy and human rights in the backseat as a result of the worldwide economic and political crisis following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Although Musa yesterday qualified and defended his proposal by claiming that he was speaking from his perspective as a former deputy prime minister and that it was not the view of Suhakam, grave damage has been done to public confidence in the Suhakam as the impartial and intrepid statutory protector and  promoter of human rights as stipulated by the Human Rights Commission Act 1999.

Musa is experienced enough in political and public life not to know that there is no way he can divorce  his office as Suhakam Chairman by claiming that he was speaking as a former deputy premier when he  ventured publicly to propose that Suhakam put democracy and human rights in the backseat in the aftermath of September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

After all, Musa has admitted publicly that he had made just such a recommendation to Suhakam and that the matter will be on the agenda of the next Suhakam meeting.

Musa has  brought upon Suhakam a grave crisis of confidence as evidenced by the strong reactions by NGOs and human rights activists, and while I will not go along with the Aliran President, P. Ramakrishnan in calling for his resignation as Suhakam Chairman, he should admit that public credibility, trust and confidence in Suhakam had been gravely shaken by his proposal.

Suhakam should convene an emergency meeting to address this crisis of confidence and the best way is to convene a national conference of political parties, NGOs and the civil society on the human rights lessons  for Malaysia in the September 11 aftermath and to regain public confidence in Suhakam.

May be a good conference theme will be: “Democracy and Human Rights in Post-911 Malaysia  - Backseat or Frontseat?”

Musa and Suhakam should  also explain the status of the three reports it has released to date, whether Suhakam is now of the view that the  various Suhakam recommendations in these three reports to rectify the poor human rights record in the country should now to “put on hold” by the government in view of the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks or whether they should be acted upon unaffected by the terror attacks.

For instance, the first Suhakam annual report had recommended that Malaysia should ratify as soon as possible the following instruments:

Does Suhakam want the government and Parliament to act on this recommendation soonest or is it “freezing” this recommendation until the United States President Bush could declare victory in his war against terrorism - which United States leaders have repeatedly told Americans  may be  a war without end or at least last the present lifetime?


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman