(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Suhakam Commissioner
Prof Hamdan Adnan told Malaysiakini yesterday that the Suhakam 2001 annual
report would be made public in June after it has been submitted
to the June meeting of Parliament by the Foreign Ministry.
Hamdan has skirted the
issue as to why Suhakam had contravened its statutory duty to submit its 2001
annual report to Parliament at the March/April meeting as required by Section
21(1) of the Human Rights of Commission 1999 Act, which specifically states:
(1) The Commission shall not later than the first meeting of Parliament of the
following year, submit an annual report to Parliament of all its activities
during the year to which the report relates.”
Although Suhakam falls
under the purview of the Foreign Ministry, this is for the purpose of allocation
of Ministerial duties and does not shift the burden of complying with the
statutory duty to protect and
promote human rights, including to submit its annual report to Parliament at the
first meeting of the year, to the Foreign Ministry.
Can Suhakam disclaim responsibility of its
statutory duty under Section 21(1) of its parent Act if the Foreign Ministry for
some reason decides to sit on the Suhakam annual report and refuses to forward
it to Parliament – as has happened in this case?
Hamdan said the Suhakam
annual report 2001 is now with the Foreign Ministry.
Why should this be so.
When Parliament debated
and passed the Human Rights Commission Act in July 1999, and I took an active
part in the proceedings, neither the government nor the
Minister “charged with the responsibility for human rights” (s.2
- it is significant that the Act does not refer to the Minister as
“charged with the responsibility for Suhakam”) was empowered to
interfere with any aspect of Suhakam duty or function.
I would contend that the
Foreign Minister has no statutory power, right
or locus standi to submit the
Suhakam report to Parliament, and that the Foreign Ministry should return the
report to Suhakam for it to make the proper submission to Parliament as intended
by Section 21(1) of the Suhakam Act.
Suhakam Commissioners should explain why
they so easily conceded their statutory power and duty
to the Foreign Ministry,
allowing it to improperly and
unlawfully interfere with the Suhakam’s statutory duty to submit its annual
report to the first Parliamentary meeting of the year.
How could Suhakam
command respect and confidence that it would without fear or favour protect and
promote human rights in the country when it could not even defend and safeguard
its statutory powers and duties from Executive interference and encroachment?
Hamdan, who is the chairman of the Suhakam
Complaints and Inquiries Working Group, said Suhakam will decide on
Monday if it wants to hold an inquiry into the six reformasi
ISA detainees, Ezam Mohd Nor,
Saari Sungib, Dr Badrulamin Bahron, Tian Chua,
Lokman Noor Adam and Hishamuddin Rais, who
recently staged a 11-day hunger strike on the anniversary of their detention
under the Internal Security Act.
This is a most shocking statement, as Suhakam
had announced its decision last month to conduct an inquiry into the ISA
detention of the reformasi six – which was in fact one of the factors leading
to the calling-off of their hunger strike.
second-term Suhakam must adhere to the earlier Suhakam decision to conduct an
inquiry into the ISA detention of the reformasi six unless it could be rescinded
by two-thirds of the Suhakam Commissioners in their meeting on Monday.
is clearly spelt out in Section 7 (4) of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia
Act 1999 which provides that members of the Commission “shall use their best
endeavours to arrive at all decisions of the meeting by consensus failing which
the decision by a two-thirds majority of the members present shall be
As the new Chairman of the Complaints and
Inquiries Working Group, Hamdan should have finalized the details and mechanics
for the public inquiry into the ISA detention of the reformasi six, instead of
talking about whether an inquiry is to be held and waiting to see whether the
earlier Suhakam decision for such an inquiry would be rescinded by two-thirds of
Suhakam Commissioners on Monday.
In this connection, the question must be asked
whether it is true that the reason why Datuk Dr. Salleh
Mohd Nor was axed as Suhakam
commissioner and not reappointed although he was one of the three most
industrious, conscientious and committed Suhakam Commissioners in the past two
years, was because the Sarawak
state government strongly objected to the Suhakam inquiry into Sarawak Native
Customary Rights (NCR) land controversy which he headed and the draft report of
the inquiry which is being drastically watered down causing delay in its
December last year, the then Deputy Chairman of the Suhakam Complaints and
Inquiries Working Group, Tan Sri Anuar Zainal Abidin had announced in Kuching
that a comprehensive report on a Suhakam fact-finding mission following
memoranda of complaints by Sarawak natives affected by the Bakun dam project and
native customary rights land (NCR) conflicts was expected to be ready in
February this year after hearing and receiving
representation from the natives and the government authorities.
said that the draft report would also be forwarded to the Chief Minister Tan Sri
Abdul Taib Mahmud once it was completed.
the complaints lodged with Suhakam and were the subject of investigations
by the Suhakam fact finding mission headed by Salleh Mohd Nor were
the resettlement of nearly 1,000 people to Sungai Asap due to the Bakun
dam project; the problems faced by Penans relating to logging companies
encroaching into their NCR land resulting in pollution of water supply and loss
of food sources and hunting grounds left uncompensated; the problems of the Ibans in Ulu Niah in their conflicts with
oil palm companies, etc.
should explain the status of the Salleh report of the Suhakam inquiry, why it
has not been made public and to what extent the original Salleh report is being
watered down – issues which will
raise new questions about the
independence and credibility of the second-term Suhakam.