Musa gives assurance that Suhakam’s statutory responsibilities to “protect and promote” human rights and its ongoing human rights programme would not be affected by the aftermath of September 11

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): I have had a two-hour frank and no-holds-barred discussion with the Suhakam Chairman, Tan Sri Musa Hitam in Kuala Lumpur today on his recent controversial statement about democracy and human rights taking a backseat in the aftermath of September 11.

Musa clarified that he had stated that democracy and human rights had been forced to a backseat to security concerns about terrorism in the aftermath of the September 11 in the United States and in nations worldwide, and stressed that he had never recommended that Suhakam should put  democracy and human rights in the  backseat as a consequence.

He said he had clarified right from the very beginning on Wednesday that he was responding to a reporter’s question in his capacity as former deputy prime minister and not as Suhakam chairman, and that this clarification was not an afterthought the next day as is the impression among some people.

He assured that Suhakam was continuing to carry out its statutory duties to “promote and protect” human rights in Malaysia as spelt out in the Human Rights Commission Act 1999 and that none of its ongoing programmes would be affected or downgraded - including visits to  the Kamunting Detention Centre to look into the complaints by the current batch of  Internal Security Act detainees about their  detention condition and treatment.

In our meeting, we also discussed the issues of terrorism in general and the September 11 terrorist mass murders and its aftermath in particular, human rights, democracy and various aspects of Suhakam work in the past 20 months since its establishment.

I told Musa  that the controversy and  media reports about his  statement had sent the wrong signals to Malaysians that Suhakam is  in swift retreat from all fronts of its statutory responsibilities to “protect and promote” human rights because of security concerns on terrorism in the aftermath of September 11 terror attacks.

I stressed that there is a strong case to draw the lesson that democracy and human rights must be strengthened rather than weakened in the aftermath of September 11 to better counter the threat of terrorism, as Malaysians are not asking for absolute liberties or democratic licence but greater respect for democratic freedoms and human rights which will not in any manner  undermine  law and order or threaten the fabric of Malaysian society.

I proposed that Suhakam should convene national conference of the various government officials, all political parties, NGOs and the civil society to synthesise the views of as broad a national cross-section of Malaysians as possible as the proper position of democracy and human rights in the country after September 11.

The New Straits Times yesterday reported  on the response of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to  my statement that it is a  shame on the Malaysian Parliament that despite four weeks, it has not taken an official stand and vote on the United States-led airstrikes in Afghanistan, civilian casualties, refugee crisis and the looming winter human catastrophe.

Mahathir disclosed that the Institute of  Strategic and International Studies would be organising a conference on terrorism on November 16 and 17, and he felt that a common stand opposing terrorism could be made at the conclusion of the conference, where UMNO would be taking part to give its input and he would also explain the Government’s stand on the matter and views of world’s leaders on terrorism.

I do not know whether all political parties, NGOs and a full cross-section of the civil society have been invited to the ISIS conference to allow a national consensus on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the aftermath in all aspects to be reached, binding on all political parties and the civil society.

I have accepted the invitation to the ISIS Conference, but the Conference programme, which has eight themes, has no specific reference to  the impact of September 11 aftermath  on  democracy and human rights.

The eight themes are:

Musa said Suhakam would consider my proposal that it should convene an national  conference of the government,  political parties, NGOs and the civil society on the impact of the aftermath of the September 11 Incidents on democracy and  human rights in  Malaysia.

In the discussion, I also raised the following issues:


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman