Press Statement 6th July, 2012
SUARAM REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO WORK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS FOR MALAYSIANS
SUARAM is gravely concerned on the on-going harassment and intimidation employed by the government through various governmental agencies against civil society organisations. SUARAM has become their latest target and was visited twice by the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) on the 3rd and 4th July 2012.
This recent harassment and intimidation flew in the face of human rights defenders especially after recommendations made to the Malaysian government by Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Assembly and Association, Maina Kiai at the recently concluded 20th Regular Session of Human Rights Council in Geneva in which Malaysia, a member state, was mentioned on numerous occasions pertaining to the restrictions and limitations on freedom of assembly and association.
The CCM, instead of launching an immediate ‘routine inspection’ and thorough investigation on the questionable activities and accounts of companies such as Perimekar Sdn Bhd and Terasasi Sdn Bhd recently uncovered in the Paris papers, have decided to harass SUARAM, the whistleblower in the on-going Scorpene scandal involving at least RM500,000,000.00 suspected to be commissions, monies of which belonging to Malaysian tax payers. The ‘routine inspection’ on SUARAM was conducted as an immediate reaction to Jaringan Melayu Malaysia’s allegations. It is apparent where the priority of CCM lies.
On 3rd July 2012, a team of officers from CCM led by Assistant Registrar, Azahari Ab Rahman had attempted to serve a Notice of Inspection pursuant to s7B of the Companies Act 1965 to Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd, however it was pointed out by SUARAM that the said notice was defective and hence, invalid. One officer from the CCM scheduled and informed SUARAM that the CCM team will return at 10:30AM the next day.
On 4th July, 2012, the Directors, Chairman, secretariat members and staff of Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd together with lawyers have arrived at the organisation’s office at or about 10:00AM in anticipation of the CCM’s scheduled visit to re-serve a proper s7B notice. However, the team of officers arrived at the office at or about 5:53PM, long after the persons authorised to accept service have taken leave for home.
The team left the office when they could not serve a set of revised notices despite the staff offered to accept service on behalf of Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd. An offer by SUARAM to arrange service on another date was also turned down by the Assistant Registrar. In the absence of an affirmative date of service, SUARAM is put to the expense of CCM’s convenience to serve the revised set of notices as and when it fits the CCM most. SUARAM views this as an attempt by the government to destabilize the organisation through harassment and intimidation tactics.
SUARAM takes caution at the significantly more polished content of the notices including its variations in its enclosures (which sets out the list of documents to be produced for inspection) between notices to the Directors, Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd and its company secretary. This the Assistant Registrar had expressed as the outcome of a lengthy discussion by the CCM officials after the first visit. Regardless of the notices, SUARAM maintains its cooperation to comply with requirements under the Companies Act 1965 to produce the required documents, in accordance to the law. The Assistant Registrar is quoted as saying “…we don’t need the notice actually…”
It is of utmost importance to note that the CCM must first comply with rules, regulations and procedures in the performance of their duties. Non-compliance such as invalid notice due to carelessness and late visits at closing hours when persons authorised to accept service have returned home must not be a norm in CCM’s performance of duties and responsibilities as law enforcers.
SUARAM reiterates that the organisation has nothing to hide and urges the CCM to first comply with the requirements of the Act prior to having full access to documents and information of SUARAM. For the record, SUARAM has been, and continues to strive for excellence in submitting records to the CCM since 2002 and in providing its selfless service to Malaysian tax payers to uphold human rights. SUARAM has been formally acknowledged by SUHAKAM in 2011 when it endowed upon SUARAM an award recognizing SUARAM’s selfless service for human rights.
SUARAM, and many other organisations’ registrations under the Register of Companies were necessitated by the fact that the freedom of association in Malaysia, like many other freedoms is not realizable. Other NGOs have been forced to similarly register under the Register of Companies to continue advocating for human rights due to the restrictions and limitations in the Societies Act 1966.
The Societies Act 1966 confers arbitrary and absolute discretionary powers to the Minister in charge of registration of societies and the Registrar. Provisions were framed in the widest possible manner to be able to justify decisions made by the Minister and Registrar in many aspects from registration to the banning and suspension of a society. “…It shall be lawful for the Minister in his absolute discretion by order to declare unlawful any society or branch or class or description of any societies which in his opinion, is or is being used for purposes prejudicial to or incompatible with the interest of the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or morality…”
It is on this note that SUARAM, as a leading organisation working for human rights, hereby strongly urge the government to cease all form of political harassment and intimidation against human rights based organisations and review, if not repeal, all undue restrictions and limitations under the Societies Act 1966 which curtail fundamental freedoms enshrined under the Federal Constitution. Let not any organisations face the same political harassment and intimidation SUARAM and other organisations in the past have endured. Human rights is more than legal concepts. It is the essence of mankind. Deny it and you deny humanity.