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BG: Suhakam - Close It Down Or Respect It!
By Lim Kit Siang
15/8/2001 4:05 am Wed
Suhakam - close it down or respect it!
Media Statement by DAP National Chairman Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on
Monday, 13th August 2001:
Cabinet should decide whether to close down Suhakam or give respect and
weight to its recommendations to uphold Malaysians' right to unrestricted
and legal peaceful assemblies
The Cabinet should decide whether to close down the Human Rights Commission
(Suhakam) or give respect and weight to its recommendations to protect and
promote human rights in Malaysia in accordance with its statutory
functions and powers, especially with regard to its latest recommendations
to uphold citizens' right to unrestricted and legal peaceful assemblies.
Last week, Suhakam released a 32-page report calling for greater freedom of
expression and assembly, refuting the mindset among politicians that
'assemblies are intrisincally dangerous and liable to become a threat to
national security or public order'.
Such a ridiculous mindset was vividly illustrated not only by the
overwhelming police presence but also the unreasonable police restrictions
imposed on the Bukit Bruang DAP Branch anniversary dinner in Malacca on
There is no way any professional police evaluation could come to the
conclusion that the Bukit Bruang DAP Branch anniversary dinner, like all
DAP branch dinners throughout the country in the past 35 years, could
become 'instrinsically dangerous and liable to become a threat to national
security or public order' as to require full mobilisation of police
presence which could be more gainfully employed elsewhere to fight crime
and maintain law and order.
Something is very wrong not only with democracy but the Malaysian
government when the gathering of peace-loving, law-abiding but politically
concerned Malaysians at DAP branch anniversary dinners is regarded as a
potential threat to national security and public order, where the
fundamental rights of Malaysians to freedoms of assembly and expression are
reduced to the right to assemble to eat collectively but not to talk!
This is surely not the way to trumpet to the world about Malaysia's
political stability or the nation's attractions as a haven for foreign
Police professionalism had been completely set aside and dishonoured when
their political masters decided that peaceful assemblies, including public
dinners and gatherings by opposition parties, are regarded as potential
security threats when they had never be considered so in the past. In the
process, the police are reduced to laughing stocks, squandering public
resources to man roadblocks and maintain excessive police presence at
hitherto-peaceful opposition gatherings, ignoring the more urgent tasks to
control crime and combat the bad-hats of society.
In its first annual report in April this year, Suhakam made the following interim recommendations on freedom of assembly:
All these recommendations were violated with regard to the DAP Bukit Bruang
dinner on Saturday, where the police maintained the very opposite of a
'discreet' presence and most undemocratic and unreasonable restrictions
were imposed for the dinner, as not to allow 'political' speeches.
The Minister for Culture, Arts and Tourism, Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir
made a call to all political parties, government and opposition, to put
aside their political differences for the month-long National Day
celebrations so that all Malaysians can celebrate together without racial,
religious and political barriers.
Abdul Kadir's sentiments are laudable but is the Cabinet prepared to issue
a directive to all and sundry, from the Prime Minister downwards, that no
one should make any 'political' speeches, statements, criticisms or attacks
during the month-long National Day celebrations, binding all mainstream
media, whether electronic or printed?
Coming back to the Suhakam recommendations in its first annual report in
April - had the Cabinet and the Police in the past four months considered
them and if so, what is the outcome, or are they just regarded as so much
'noise' by busybodies which do not merit any attention?
Last week, Suhakam recommended a total change in the attitude of authorities
and far-reaching amendments to the Police Act as a long-term solution to
uphold citizens' right to unrestricted and legal peaceful assemblies.
In the immediate short and medium-term, Suhakam proposed that a more
lenient approach is taken by police in granting permits for assemblies as
well as the introduction of speakers' corners.
The police clampdown on public ceramahs was announced just before the
release of the Suhakam recommendations on freedom of expression and assemblies.
It is clear that the authorities were aware of the impending Suhakam
recommendations before the police clampdown on ceramah and public meetings.
Was the Suhakam recommendation the spur for the decision by the political
masters for the police clampdown on ceramahs and public meetings?
The Cabinet meeting on Wednesday should make a policy decision whether it
is serious in respecting the Suhakam's role and functions. It should
either respect the Suhakam's statutory functions and powers, implement its
recommendations or state publicly why it could not do so. Otherwise, it
might just as well close down Suhakam to tell Malaysians and the world that
neither a human rights commission nor police professionalism has any
place in its scheme of things as far as democracy and human rights are
- Lim Kit Siang -