Commission of Inquiry should address and resolve urgently and
satisfactorily the case of P Uthayakumar seeking asylum in
United Kingdom in fear of his life
- when receiving the SUARAM “Malaysia: Human Rights Report 2003”
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament House, Monday): We are witnessing a historic event, as this is first time in the history of the Malaysian Parliament that a report of a Malaysian human rights NGO has been given the importance and recognition of being jointly received by both the Government and the Opposition in Parliament as we are doing now – with the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz representing the government and myself representing the Opposition.
This marks a high-water mark in the mainstreaming of human rights in Parliament, but it is not enough to give respect and recognition to Suaram’s “Malaysian Human Rights Report 2003” unless there is a follow-up promotion and protection of human rights based on it and other human rights reports.
Suhakam only last week tabled its 2003 Human Rights Report in Parliament, and it would have been more appropriate and fitting if there is an annual feature where the Suhakam Chairman and Commissioners meet Members of Parliament in Parliament House once a month to present the Suhakam annual report, followed by a dialogue as well as a full debate in Parliament on the Suhakam report.
I regret that the government has not agreed to a full report on the 2003 Suhakam Report as Nazri said MPs could give their views on the Suhakam Report in the interstices of various debates and parliamentary proceedings, which cannot be satisfactory at all.
This is why on Friday, DAP MPs will be meeting with the Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman and Suhakam commissioners at the Suhakam headquarters on Friday to have a dialogue on the Suhakam Annual Report 2003.
As a “double-major” under the Internal Security Act (having been detained twice under this detention-without-trial law), I fully identify with the NGO representatives who spoke just now about their concern about fundamental human rights, viz: liberty of the person, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of information, etc.
One speaker mentioned just now about the problem of police brutality, police shootings and deaths in custody. This brings to the fore the case of human rights lawyer, P. Uthayakumar, who is seeking asylum in the United Kingdom as he no longer feels safe in Malaysia after taking up a series of high-profile cases involving police brutality, police shootings and deaths in custody.
I had raised the case of Uthayakumar with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on May 11 and he undertook to refer the case to the Inspector-General of Police, and it is most regrettable that the case took a turn for the worse so swiftlly.
The Police Royal Commission of Inquiry should address and resolve urgently and satisfactorily for the good name of the country, the reputation of the police as well as the safety and security of P Uthayakumar.
Today’s function would not be possible under the old administration, which itself signifies a change and a more open attitude on the part of the government on public interest issues like human rights, and a greater seriousness about Malaysia’s place in the international arena with regard with our ranking on an assortment of international best practices and benchmarks, whether on human rights, press freedom, corruption perception index, etc.
I am glad that the Deputy Minister for Internal Security Noh Omar was prepared to publicly admit his earlier mistake in Parliament when he had claimed that Malaysia’s ranking was a respectable 72nd place, when it was a dismal 106th placing – but what is more important is the political will to improve on Malaysia’s press freedom ranking.
In his CNN interview on Saturday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi expressed his wish to see an improvement in Malaysia corruption index by leaps and bounds, which hopefully will lead to greater respect for Malaysia’s position in international best practices and benchmarks.
This is why with the Minister in charge of parliamentary affairs with us, I urge on him the proposal for the establishment of a Select Committee on Human Rights, to exercise oversight on Suhakam as well as review in depth the human rights situation such as the Suaram Human Rights Report.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman