Jaya, Monday): The fifth series of police
harassment, human rights violation and unlawful arrests
of DAP leaders in Pandamaran, Klang yesterday in connection with the
peaceful and legitimate “No to 929” campaign mark four full months
of impotence, failure and
irrelevance of the second Suhakam
under the chairmanship of Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman to be the promoter and protector of human rights as entrusted
by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act
Immediately after the first police harassment and unlawful criminalization of
peaceful, legitimate and constitutional “No to 929” campaign in Ipoh on June
5, when I was arrested under the Sedition Act but never charged, and the third
incident in Bentong on August 4 when the DAP MP for Batu Gajah, Fong Poh Kuan
and 12 others were arrested, official reports had been
lodged with Suhakam against the police gross abuses of power and blatant
violation of human rights.
But Suhakam has proved to be completely impotent, ineffective and irrelevant
to the promotion and protection of human rights which is the very raison d’etre for its existence, as it has
not been able to stop the police from continuing its series of harassments and criminalization of peaceful and
legitimate political activities to defend and uphold the 1957 Merdeka
Constitution, the “social contract” and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement, as to
date there had been five such unlawful police actions involving 32 arrests, viz:
Ipoh June 5 1 person
Port Dickson July 21 6 persons
Bentong August 4 13 persons
Klang August 18 6 persons
Klang August 25 6 persons
Total ` 32 arrests
The impotence, failure and irrelevance of Suhakam to discharge its statutory
duty to protect and promote human
rights by educating police officers
as to their human rights responsibilities and to stop blatant police human
rights violations like the harassment and criminalization of peaceful and
legitimate political activities such as “No to 929” campaign is only part of
a larger failure, impotence and irrelevance of
the second Suhakam to perform its
statutory role as the protector and promoter of human rights.
It also raises the fundamental question as to whether Suhakam should be
spending over RM5 million of taxpayers’ money a year and Suhakam Commissioners
be given bigger allowances and perks than Members of Parliament if they are not prepared to fulfill
their statutory duty to be promoter and protector of human rights.
The 2001 Suhakam Annual Report, under the section “Human Rights Education
for Police Officers” in Chapter 5 on “Report of the Education Working
Group” said a second dialogue between Suhakam and the police in May 2001
reached agreement on the inclusion of human rights education for officers and
that Suhakam would provide training for the lecturers at the police training
One of Abu Talib’s first public functions as Suhakam Chairman was the human
rights workshop for senior police officers at the police training centre in
Cheras, Kuala Lumpur in June which
was also attended by the
Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai and his deputy Tan Sri Jamil
Johari – but his message that policing and human rights need not clash seemed
to have fallen on deaf ears.
Abu Talib’s caution to the senior police officers that “as a body of
people vested with a vast range of powers, including power of arrest, use of
force and the power to detain, the police can inadvertently be seen as violators
or potential violaters of laws expressing human rights standards” might as
well had not been delivered, or the series of police harassment, abuse
of powers and human rights violations in connection with the DAP’s
“No to 929” campaign would not have happened.
The police have clearly given the unmistakable impression that it is dancing to the tune of
the Barisan Nasional politicians to harass the Opposition rather than an
impartial and independent custodian of law and order!
Abu Talib should convene an emergency meeting of the second Suhakam to review
its failure, impotence and irrelevance in its first four months in office to
discharge its statutory duty to be protector and promoter of human rights, as
the other major areas of its sins of omission and commission include:
Wishy-washy position on Internal Security Act (ISA) after repudiating the ISA stand of the first Suhakam, complete silence on the repeated threats by UMNO leaders to use the ISA against dissent and critics of the proposal to use English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from Std. One and a Suhakam inquiry into the ISA which prejudged the guilt of the detainees by focusing more on rehabilitation than on the injustice of the initial detention-without-trial and the exclusion of testimony from the Reformasi Six, namely Mohamad Ezam Mohamad Nor, Hishamuddin Rais, Chua Tian Chang, Saari Sungib, Badrulamin Bahron and Lokman Noor Adam;
Suhakam’s deafening silence on the human rights violations and implications
of the conviction and two-year jail sentence of
Keadilan Youth chief Mohd Ezam Mohd Noor under
the Official Secrets Act which sent
out the outrageous message to the nation and the world that in Malaysia
corruption is no crime while exposing corruption is the heinous crime.
Suhakam’s “eyes that see not, ears that hear not, mouths that speak not” attitude about the worsening violations of the fundamental rights to freedom of speech, expression and a free press in the past four months. In organizing a media workshop as its only response, Suhakam has completely misconceived itself as a think-tank on human rights rather than a “protector and promoter”: of human rights as spelt out by its parent Act.
There are enough wishy-washy “think-tanks” in the country and the country can do without another. When Parliament passed the Suhakam Act, it never intended to create another “think-tank” but a promoter and protector of human rights!
The second Suhakam has also forgotten its various promises and commitments when it took office four months ago, as for instance, in making public in the shortest possible time the Suhakam inquiry report into the Sarawak Native Customary Rights (NCR) land controversy which was headed by Datuk Dr. Salleh Mohd Nor, whose report was given approval in principle before the end of the two-year tenure of the first Suhakam. Has the second Suhakam decided to keep the Salleh report on NCR land a secret and if so, why?
Parliament when it reconvenes on Sept. 9 should conduct a far-ranging scrutiny of the second Suhakam’s performance in its first four months of office and send out a clear and unmistakable reminder to the Suhakam Chairman and Commissioners on their statutory role to be the “protector and promoter’ of human rights and not to be a human rights “think-tank” avoiding taking positions on individual and specific human rights violations.