Abdullah should demonstrate the government’s seriousness and commitment to protect and promote human rights by announcing on Human Rights Day on 9th September the government  responses  to the three Suhakam reports

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Thursday): Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said on Tuesday that both the Home Ministry and the Police were studying the Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s (Suhakam) report on widespread police human rights violations at the Kesas Highway/Jalan Kebun gathering last November.

He said the Home Ministry may adopt the Suhakam’s recommendations but only those that are approved by the Home Ministry officials.

He said: “The police will look at it and my ministry will look at it and whatever recommendations our officials make will be the ones that the government will consider implementing.”

This is an utterly meaningless statement, saying and meaning nothing, completely open-ended as to allow such studies to go on indefinitely without any conclusion - especially after the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai had  dismissed the Suhakam report as  “biased and unrealistic” as reason why he did not  “pay much attention” to it and the Prime Minister had denounced the Suhakam report as “Western influenced” and as good as “anti-national”!

In the past five months, Suhakam has produced three reports, namely the first Suhakam annual report at the end of April, the 32-page  report on freedom of assembly dated 24th July and made public on 3rd  August and the 66-page report  on its inquiry into the November 5, 2000 Kesas Highway Incident made public on 20th August 2001, with a raft of recommendations in accordance with its statutory duties  to protect and promote human rights in Malaysia.

To date, however, there has been no proper considered response whether from the police, the Home Ministry or the government as a whole to demonstrate that the government is serious, sincere and fully committed to the protection and promotion of human rights entrenched in the Malaysian Constitution and enforced  by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999.
Abdullah should demonstrate the government’s seriousness and commitment to protect and promote human rights by announcing on Human Rights Day on 9th September the government  responses  to the three Suhakam reports.

In its first annual report presented to Parliament in April, Suhakam  had recommended that peaceful assemblies should be allowed, making specific proposals such as:

In the Suhakam report on freedom of assembly made public last month, Suhakam made recommendations based on the findings and best practices in other countries and through discussion with the Police and other interested parties like political parties and NGOs.

Its recommendations are divided between those for the short-term and long-term, the former on the simplification and automatic approval of police permits for static assemblies, while the latter concerned the amendments of various laws like the Police Act to remove undue restrictions on the right to freedom  of assembly.

The third Suhakam report on its inquiry into the Kesas Highway Incident contained detailed and specific findings on the use of excessive and unnecessary force and the widespread violation of human rights by the police  which, if not  rebutted, would  stand as a permanent blot of police record and indictment of police misconduct at the Kesas Highway gathering because police silence on such serious findings of blatant police abuses can only mean police admission of guilt.

For instance, one of the police witnesses at the Suhakam inquiry, Supt. Haji Ruslan bin Dolah (W34), Timbalan Komander of the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) and who was the FRU commander for the Kesas Highway/Jalan Kebun  operation called “Ops Padam Kebun”, testified that FRU personnel who did not follow orders when firing tear gas would have committed an offence, that the police would not condone such police misbehaviour and that disciplinary action would be taken against  FRU personnel who breached police orders.

As the Suhakam inquiry had specifically found that Shaiful Khairy bin Kamarul Zaman, the bodyguard of Keadilan President Datin Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had been hit directly by a tear gas canister, which is against police regulations, what disciplinary action has the police taken on the matter?

What is the police response to the other findings of the Suhakam inquiry that the police had used excessive force, even “to stop persons from attempting to get away from the scene rather than for overcoming resistance to the order to disperse as provided by law”,  against “persons sitting in their cars who were unable to move due to the traffic congestion and who were forced out of their cars and assaulted” and  “on people who had already been arrested and were being taken away to police vehicles”?

Police professionalism and credibility had been seriously impugned in the Suhakam inquiry report, especially with  the following conclusion:

"The Panel arrived at its findings by weighing the evidence adduced at the Inquiry, the demeanour of the witnesses and the manner in which they answered questions.  The Panel notes that many of the Police witnesses gave evidence that had been prepared.  When questioned, one became defensive (W30), one contradicted himself (W37), while most stated that the answer would be provided by the next witness. The next witness would come well prepared to answer the questions that had been put earlier but would not answer any new questions. The Panel had to weigh the pat answers given in this manner by the Police against the spontaneous answers provided by other witnesses."

Why is the police silent on such incriminating  finding of the  Suhakam inquiry that police witnesses were drilled to adopt  an  evasive, dishonest  and unprofessional strategy so as to give orchestrated "pat answers" in their testimony, evincing the utter absence of spontaneity, forthrightness and honesty, which was most unbecoming of the honour and reputation of the a police force committed to the upholding of law and order, truth and justice?

On Human Rights Day on Sunday, September 9, 2001,  at the opening ceremony of the first Human Rights Day in Malaysia  at Putra World Trade Centre, Abdullah should give meaning to the occasion by giving a full accounting of  the government’s responses to the three Suhakam reports , specifying the Suhakam recommendations which it  would accept or reject, giving reasons.

Henceforth, it should be a standing government practice to issue a public response to every Suhakam report within a month of its publication - something which a  government which is serious about human rights and the establishment of Suhakam  would do as a matter of public duty.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman