(Petaling Jaya, Monday): The
Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad showed his utter contempt for
non-government organisations (NGOs) and the civil society when he took a swipe
at the coalition of 32 NGOs which had suspended all “engagements” with
Suhakam for 100 days, telling Suhakam not to bother with the action of the NGOs
with the curt dismissal: “Let
them…who cares about these NGOs.”
is outrageous that while the Parliamentary Secretary to the Information
Ministry, Datuk Zainuddin Maidin, could lament that the World Press Freedom
forum organised by the Asian Institute for Development Communications (Aidcom),
the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) and the National Press Club in collaboration
with the United Nations and the Canadian International Development Agency (Cida)
on Saturday did not discuss “western media imperalism which is threatening
press freedom in developing countries”, there is no let-up in the distortions
of news and misinformation by the local media oppressors.
good instance is the distortion by the
mainstream media of the reasons for the 100-day “disengagement” with Suhakam
by the 32 NGOs, with New Straits Times reporting
as being “due to dissatisfaction with the commission”, The Star reporting as
“in protest against what it perceives as the erosion of Suhakam’s
independence” while Bernama reporting
that it was “to show their regret over the role played by the commission in
championing human rights”.
omitted in the mainstream media reports was the fact that the target of
the NGOs’ anger resulting in their 100-day
“disengagement” with Suhakam was more the government than the commission -
as the government had shown
no respect for Suhakam or recognition of the various Suhakam reports and
out the joint statement of the
NGOs to announce their
100-day “disengagement” with Suhakam on Saturday, Hakam
president Ramdas Tikamdas had stated very clearly that the
boycott was to protest the government’s
poor response to Suhakam’s numerous recommendations.
is most unfortunate, unprofessional and
dishonest that the mainstream media had chosen to distort the news to gloss over the real target of the NGOs
100-day protest action, which is the government, and to deflect attention
instead to Suhakam.
Mahathir yesterday publicly showed his contempt for the NGOs, it is his contempt
for Suhakam which is the real cause for the crisis of credibility, legitimacy,
authority and integrity faced by Suhakam.
Mahathir government had ignored all the reports submitted by Suhakam so far,
whether the first annual report 2000, the Kesas Highway Inquiry Report or the
Report on Freedom of Assembly.
statutory powers and functions had been grieviously undermined when the
Foreign Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar, the Minister assigned responsibility
for human rights, could hijack its powers to submit annual reports to Parliament while the new
team of Suhakam commissioners seems to be under a “gag order ”
constraining from speaking their minds as freely as the first-term Suhakam
Cabinet on Wednesday should take a policy decision whether
it will respect the
independence and authority of
Suhakam to promote and protect human rights as intended by Parliament in the
Suhakam Act or whether it only
wants Suhakam to be an
alibi institution to legitimise human rights violations.
the former, then the government should make public its responses and positions on
the three Suhakam reports released in
the past two years, for the government cannot even pretend to be serious about
respecting Suhakam when it has ignored all the Suhakam reports to date.
the Cabinet should apologise for the Foreign Minister’s hijacking
the powers of Suhakam to present its annual report to Parliament, causing
Suhakam to contravene the Suhakam Act 1999 in not presenting its annual report
2001 to the last meeting of Parliament.
the government should give sensitive and responsible responses to the widespread objections to the lopsided,
unrepresentative and dubious appointments to the second Suhakam and the 100-day
“disengagement” protest action by the NGOs.