(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): On 24th April 2002, I called on the
incoming new Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman to set an example of
openness, accountability and transparency by publicly
declaring his business and corporate interests, as he is on the board of
over half a dozen companies, to ensure that there could be no conflict of
interest in the discharge of his duties as Suhakam Chairman with his corporate
Talib’s response to my call in an interview with Malaysiakini on the same day
was that “if there is a conflict of interest” between his Suhakam duties and
his corporate involvment, he “would then have to choose”.
not a satisfactory enough of an explanation and accounting on the part of Abu
Talib considering the circumstances of his past as Attorney-General for 14 years
from 1980-1993 which was marred by a long series of controversies which
reflected his utter contempt for democracy and human rights and raised
disturbing questions about his suitability, credibility, independence and
integrity as Suhakam Chairman entrusted with the statutory duty to
promote and protect human rights.
the infamous controversies which prominently featured Abu Talib
and which still reverberate in the country to this day because of
their adverse far-reaching effects on democracy, human rights,
accountability and good governance although
he had stepped down as Attorney-General for a decade were:
last year, Abu Talib was involved in one of the biggest financial scandals of
the government, the RM1.88 billionTime dotCom IPO bailout using Employees’
Provident Fund, Pensions Trust Fund and Khazanah,
as he was the Chairman of Time dotCom Bhd.
further compounds the question whether Abu Talib has the stuff to independently
and credibly discharge the statutory duties as Suhakam Chairman to
promote and protect human rights, even if it means having to openly and publicly
disagree with the Prime Minister and the government on fundamental issues of
democracy and human rights.
Talib, after being the point-man of the Mahathir administration for 14 years to
trample on democracy and suppress human rights, be transformed in the next two
years into the point-man to stand up to Mahathir to
protect and promote human rights as mandated by the Suhakam Act 1999?
Deputy National Chairman, Karpal Singh yesterday asked Abu Talib to seriously
consider resigning as Suhakam Chairman as no individual or organization can with
confidence refer any complaint to the commission in relation to human rights
abuses by the government.
Talib should give Karpal’s call very deep and serious consideration.
This is why over the weekend, I had listed out eight tasks and tests for
Suhakam affecting its credibility and integrity,
especially in the backdrop of the 100-day boycott protest and
disengagement with Suhakam by 32 NGOs, with
the restoration of the confidence of the NGOs, Bar Council, Opposition
political parties and concerned Malaysians in Suhakam as the primary challenge.
Talib feels that he could rise to the completely new challenges of Suhakam
Chairman and free himself from
the mental fetters of 14
years as Attorney-General to unquestionably and obediently
implement the human rights policy of the government to stifle civil
liberties and undergo a transformation to embrace a completely
new concept and commitment to human rights, including publicly breaking
ranks with the government’s anti-human rights policy, then he should
immediately send out a clear message to NGOs, the Bar Council, Opposition
political parties and concerned Malaysians to give him a chance to prove
must be followed by his publicly declaring all his business and corporate
interests as well as his incomes and assets to establish that there could be no
conflict of interest in the discharge of his duties as Suhakam Chairman.
is not prepared to take these steps, then he should return his commission as
Suhakam Chairman to the Yang di
Pertuan Agong so that a suitable nominee could be appointed instead to spearhead
the statutory responsibilities to protect and promote human rights in Malaysia
for the next two years.