DAP to seek meeting with Suhakam to ask for public inquiry into Kampung Medan tragedy

- DAP Selangor Deepavali reception for Kampong Medan victims 
Lim Kit Siang

(Kuala Lumpur, Friday): When presenting the 2002 Budget in Parliament on October 19, 2001, the Prime Minister cum Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad referred to the Kampung Medan tragedy when he said: "Recently, the nation has been jolted by unprecedented acts of violence.  The Kampung Medan incident has marred the unity that we have so painstakingly built up."

With Mahathir setting the example, I had expected Members of Parliament to focus during the budget policy debate  on the Kampung Medan tragedy, which  claimed the lives of six persons with 78 others severely injured, as the , mayhem,  riots and the lawlessness which lasted over two weeks represented the most serious quadruple failures in nation-building, development planning, law enforcement and mass communications in the past three decades.

But the country was in for a great disappointment as Parliament  seems to have a very short memory and had completely forgotten the riots and tragedy of Kampung Medan eight months ago, as if they had happened in the historic past eight or 80 years ago! No MP or Minister seemed to have remembered the gross human rights violations and injustices perpetrated on the innocent men, women and children in Kampung Medan only eight months ago and the justice that must still be done - which is a crying shame!

Last Sunday, I met the Sukaham Chairman, Tan Sri Musa Hitam and had a two-hour frank and no-holds-barred discussion on his recent  controversial statement about democracy and human rights taking a backseat in the aftermath of September 11.

During the discussion, I had also raised with him my concern at the inaction of Suhakam in the past eight months to hold a full inquiry into the worst and most rampant human rights violations in the Kampung Medan tragedy and the failure by Suhakam to fully account to Malaysians for its failure to act on the Kampung Medan tragedy.

Musa said he had acted on my media statement of 24th October 2001 where I had called on him to give his personal attention to end the eight-month Suhakam inertia on the most serious human rights violations in the country since its establishment .

Musa informed me that he had discussion with the Suhakam Commissioner responsible for complaints about human rights violations, Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin, former Chief Justice of Malaya, and the Suhakam was of the view that legal proceedings was the proper avenue for these complaints and that Suhakam had responded to the two organisations which had lodged official complaints on the matter.

I expressed my disagreement with both grounds, as Suhakam would be abdicating from its statutory responsibilities to "protect and promote human rights" if it is allowed to dismiss human rights complaints on the ground that legal proceedings would be the proper avenue.  Furthermore, the issue of the gross human rights violations in the Kampung Medan tragedy is not a private matter between Suhakam and the two organisations which had lodged formal complaints, but is a  matter of great public interest which concern all Malaysians and Suhakam must account to the nation for its inertia and not just to  two organisations in private correspondence.

Musa, who said he would be leaving for New Zealand to attend some conference, suggested a meeting with Suhakam Commissioner Anuar, and with the mandate from tonight's reception, I will proceed to arrange for a meeting with Suhakam to raise the issue of  a public inquiry into the Kampung Medan tragedy.

I hope the MIC President and Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu would support the call to Suhakam to end its eight-month inertia and to institute a public inquiry into the human rights violations in the Kampung Medan tragedy.

It has been said that those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to repeat its mistakes.  We must not allow the tragedy of Kampung Medan to be forgotten as we do not want any repetition of such mayhem, riots and tragedy in our country.

For this reason, we should not allow this year to end without a major effort to remind the nation and people of  the Kampung Medan tragedy and to review the progress made to address the root causes of the quadruple failures of nation-building, development planning, law enforcement and mass communications which it highlighted.

I propose a National Conference be held by the end of this year on the lessons the nation should learn from the Kampung Medan tragedy, which should be above party politics, partisan differences, race or religion - with full participation from all political parties, whether Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternative, DAP and all NGOs and concerned Malaysian citizens. I hope the government can give full support to this proposal of a National Conference on the Kampung Medan tragedy before the end of this year and that it would be discussed both in the Cabinet and in Parliament.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman