(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): A
strange and eerie silence seems to have descended on the Suhakam Commissioners,
leaving many public queries about Suhakam
unanswered for the past six days -
which is a most unusual phenomenon as one of the characteristics
established by the Suhakam Commissioners in the past two years was their
accessibility and freedom in
their public views, comments and explanations.
Even the most vocal and articulate Commissioners in the first-term
Suhakam have disappeared from the public domain although they have been
re-appointed for another term.
As a result Suhakam, which already faces a crisis of confidence sparked off by the highly controversial appointment of former Attorney-General Tan Sri Abu Talib as Chairman, the axing of the most industrious, conscientious and committed Commissioners like Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin, Mehrun Siraj and Datuk Dr. Salleh Mohd Nor and the stacking of the second-term Suhakam with former civil servants and a current public servant, now faces a second crisis of credibility for its front of silence, evasion and sheer inability to respond to many pertinent issues and questions, such as:
was most surprised to read of a Malaysiakini
report yesterday of the Suhakam response to my query about its cult of
secrecy, as there had been no news
about its decisions and plans of
action after the first meeting of
the new Suhakam last Friday, as
compared to the inaugural meeting
of the first Suhakam under the chairmanship of Tan Sri Musa Hitam on April 24,
2000 which was followed by a public
announcement on the very same day that Suhakam had appointed four working groups
to be responsible for Suhakam’s tasks and responsibilities and the
Commissioners assigned to each group.
secretary, Kamaruddin Mohd Baria, said there were “only minor changes” to
the Suhakam working groups, and
although he admitted that the new commissioners were assigned their groups
during last Friday’s Suhakam meeting, he declined to reveal any details.
there were “only minor changes” to the Suhakam working groups, why is
Suhakam so shy of making them public?
any event, how could Kamaruddin talk about “only minor changes” to the
working groups, when the Complaints and Inquiries Working Group had been
crippled with the removal of its
three most active and committed members – Anuar, Mehrun and Salleh?
Suhakam Complaints and Inquiries Working Group was the target of the rage and
greatest denigration by the government particularly because of its public
inquiry and report on the Kesas Highway Incident on police abuses of power and
human rights violations. Will the government reprisal against its three most
conscientious and committed members, dropping them from re-appointment to
Suhakam, reduce the new Complaints and Inquiries Working Group into a weak and
compliant creature of the government?
also find it surprising that it was the Suhakam secretary and not Abu Talib, or
Tan Sri Harun Hashim, the Suhakam Deputy Chairman or one of the Commissioners
who gave the public response.
must be asked whether a gag has
been imposed on all Suhakam
Commissioners and a campaign is needed to protect
and promote the human rights of Suhakam Commissioners to freedom of speech and
expression! If the Suhakam Commissioners themselves have lost the fundamental
human rights to freedom of speech and expression, how could they “protect and
promote” the human rights of Malaysians?
this connection, Malaysians must be concerned about Suhakam setting an even
worse example of accountability and transparency than the government.
meeting the press after chairing the first meeting of Suhakam last Friday, Abu
Talib was asked about criticism of
his appointment by non-government organizations and opposition parties and his
response was that they were
entitled to their views, saying: “I don’t want to comment on it”.
was his typical attitude
when he was Attorney-General for 13 years from 1980 to 1993, but it is
imperative that Abu Talib keep abreast with changing times, the heightened
public expectations for greater accountability and good governance and the
completely different demands of his new office and responsibility.
attitude exhibited by Abu Talib is most deplorable
and totally unacceptable for the
Suhakam Chairman to adopt as it will allow
the government to emulate when responding
to Suhakam statements and reports about human rights violations with a curt
“No comment” – which will defeat the whole purpose of the setting
up Suhakam to protect and promote human rights and to hold the government to
account for human rights abuses and violations.
the first task of the second Suhakam is to lay down a clear and enlightened
policy of public accountability and transparency and to remove the gag on
Suhakam Commissioners from continuing to freely speak their minds and express