(Petaling Jaya, Monday): The DAP Round
Table Conference on Suhakam Report 2001 – “Human Rights or Wrongs” held at
the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur yesterday decided by
consensus to set up a civil society group to exercise continuous “oversight”
over Parliament and Suhakam to monitor and assess their role in protecting and
promoting human rights. Hakam
President, Ramdas Tikamdas and former Hakam President and former Bar Council
Chairman, Raja Aziz Addruse were appointed as joint Chairpersons
to lead this informal human rights “oversight” group.
Panellists at the Round Table Conference, chaired by Lim Guan Eng, were:
Ramdas Tikamdas; former Bar Council Chairman and HAKAM President, Raja Aziz
Addruse; former Bar Council Chairman, Zainur Zakaria; Centre for Orang
Asli Concerns (COAC) coordinator, Collin Nicholas; SUARAM Executive Director,
Cynthia Gabriel; Concerned Citizen
Group Coordinator, Charles Santiago; Malaysiakini Chief Editor, Steven Gan;
Suara Warga Pertiwi, Dr Nasir Hashim; MTUC Secretary-General, R Rajasekaran and
Bar Council Chairman Mah Weng Kwai.
Chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman and the other Commissioners should take
serious note of the deliberations of the Round Table Conference on Suhakam
Report 2001 – “Human Rights or Wrongs” and
the two Joint Chair of the new civil society Suhakam “oversight”
group, Ramdas Tikamdas and Raja Aziz Addruse, should be invited
to meet with the full new
Suhakam board to get first-hand report of the Round Table Conference
There is an urgent
need for Suhakam to “buck up” and be more efficient, transparent and
independent in its operations.
Suhakam Report 2001
states that last year 21 complaints
were resolved, 101 were for no further action and 197 were
still being processed. Including the 74 unresolved complaints from the
year 2000, the total number of unresolved complaints
brought forward to 2002 is 271.
At the rate of
resolving 21 complaints a year, Suhakam will need to take 13 years to resolve
its current crop of 271 outstanding
complaints, without taking into account the new complaints for this year – an
efficiency and productivity rate which is totally unsatisfactory and
antithetical to the protection and promotion of human rights!
2001 Suhakam Report states that Suhakam had submitted to the government a
report containing recommendations for amendments to the Human Rights Commission
of Malaysia Act 1999 to overcome the “limitations of the existing law”.
amendments to the Suhakam Act should not be a secret communication between
Suhakam and the government, but a public process to allow for public input and debate.
The next Suhakam
full board monthly meeting should
take the policy decision to make public the Suhakam proposals to the government
on these amendments not only for
the information of MPs but also for feedback from the NGO human rights community
and civil society, in keeping with the Paris Principles – the primary
standards applied by the United Nations to ensure effective national human
rights institutions – recognizing the “fundamental role” in “expanding the work” of Suhakam.
Only then can
Suhakam claim to be a model example of transparency, without which there can be
no good governance – another fundamental human right!
Suhakam must also
establish its independence. It is
ridiculous for Suhakam to succumb to Foreign Ministry pressure that it could not
exercise its statutory responsibility to submit its annual report directly to
Parliament, but must act like any other statutory board to submit its annual
report via the Ministry responsible for the board.
the most glaring example of the lack of independence of Suhakam, for
Parliament never intended Suhakam to be an
ordinary statutory board, but one which stands above all statutory boards
as it vested with powers even to castigate the Foreign Minister and Foreign
Ministry for violations of human rights – and if so, is
the Foreign Ministry to be allowed to
withhold such annual report from submission to Parliament?
Another measure of
the independence of Suhakam is whether its staff are independent The Suhakam secretary, Kamaruddin Mohamed Baria,
is appointed by the Public Services Department (PSD) raising the question as to
whether his first loyalty is to the government or to Suhakam. Unless all Suhakam staff are independently appointed by
Suhakam, whose first and last loyalty is to Suhakam, Suhakam cannot lay claim to
independence as laid down in the Paris Principles.