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Aliran: Mahathir's response betrays his desperation and confusion
By P Ramakrishnan

24/8/2001 6:17 pm Fri

Suhakam's findings:

Mahathir's response betrays his desperation and confusion

Aliran congratulates the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) for a job well done. We are particularly happy that their findings have confirmed what the victims of police brutality have been accusing the police of since the Kesas Highway episode.

It is now officially established through its inquiry that:

  1. the police had acted heavy-handedly
  2. the police caused injury to persons in detention and either delayed or denied medical attention to them
  3. the police were responsible for the violence that took place
  4. the police created the massive traffic jam, which inconvenienced people not involved in the Kesas gathering
  5. the police had used excessive force on persons waiting for the traffic to clear
  6. the police had acted indiscriminately and in a biased manner in selectively applying the laws relating to assemblies
  7. the police had exercised double standards in dealing with demonstrations
  8. the police had treated detainees inhumanely, taking advantage of the situation to secure confessions and incriminating evidence.

These are not merely the views of Suhakam as Dr Mahathir would have us believe, but are the findings of a lawful and legitimate inquiry conducted under the authorisation of Parliament, which enacted the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act, 1999.

Instead of responding to the findings, which revealed terrible violations of human rights, he is desperately trying to confuse the people.

He says, "The police had given their side of the story and that should be given some weight?"

We would like to ask Mahathir what evidence did the police give?

We understand that:

  1. many police witnesses gave prepared testimonies and were unwilling to answer impromptu questions from the panel
  2. one police officer contradicted himself
  3. most stated that answers would be provided by the next witness
  4. the next witness would come well prepared to answer the questions that had been put forward earlier but then would not answer any new questions.

Mahathir accuses Suhakam of being "disinclined to make an independent decision based on Malaysian values?"

What are these so-called "Malaysian values" he is alluding to? Are they universal values or Mahathir's values, which he is trying to impose on the Malaysian people? Can the atrocities committed by the police be considered as "Malaysian values"?

What conclusions would Mahathir draw from the following?

  1. One man suffered a fractured skull after being struck on the head by a tear gas canister that was aimed at the car Wan Azizah was in.
  2. One witness had tear gas sprayed into his eyes, resulting in temporary blindness and hospitalisation for nine days.
  3. Tear gas was sprayed into a truckload of detainees.
  4. Several others suffered injuries and there was a delay in providing treatment to them; in some cases, medication was not given although doctors had prescribed them.
  5. A female detainee was ordered to strip and do 10 knee-squats.
  6. A 17-year-old student, due to sit for her SPM examinations about a week from the day she was detained, was not released despite assurances to the magistrate that she would be released soon.

Can anybody, either from the East or West, condone this barbarity? Do the above atrocities resemble any values that should be cherished?

The Act of Parliament that created Suhakam and empowered them to act was the handiwork of Mahathir's government, which was desperate to repair its human rights image in the wake of the Anwar black eye episode. But Mahathir rejected input from other groups, did not allow any public debate or discussion, and instead rushed the Bill through Parliament.

It is this Act which states under "Functions and Powers of the Commission:

4 (1) In furtherance of the protection and promotion of human rights in Malaysia, the functions of the Commission should be:

d) to inquire into complaints regarding infringements of human rights referred to in Section 12.

The Act further states under "Powers of Inquiry of the Commission:

12 (1) The Commission may, on its own or on a complaint made to it by an aggrieved person or group of persons or a person acting on behalf of an aggrieved person or groups of persons, inquire into an allegation of the infringement of the human rights of such person or group of persons."

Under Section 12 (1), Suhakam was compelled to act on receiving complaints from many victims of human rights infringements. It is a statutory requirement that such an inquiry be held and the findings be made known.

In dismissing the entire findings and in launching a diatribe against the Commission, Mahathir is indeed exposing his desperation and confusion. His words betray his own bias, his one-sidedness and his extreme intolerance of any criticism, however justified. His reaction, though predictable and typical, is totally irrational, illogical and irrelevant.

P Ramakrishnan
23 August 2001